KSU competes for a cause in Recyclemania

Alicia Balog

Kent State University is competing against 605 other universities and colleges during its third year of involvement in Recyclemania, an eight-week long national recycling competition, from Feb. 5 to March 31.

“So this is kind of on the grandest scale, this is what Recyclemania is: we get to rank Kent State’s progress among all the other schools from across the county,” said Andrew Weyand, administrative operations and facilities coordinator in Residence Services. The competition ranks schools on how much they recycle as a whole, per student, per material.

In the national competition, schools compete in multiple divisions, but the main competition is the Per Capita Classic, which measures the campus average per person.

Kent State also participates in the Gorilla Prize, a division where the total amount of recycling – as a whole, not per person – is tracked. Weyand said it is not like Per Capita because it is a different way to count the same amount of material the university recycles.

Weyand said Residence Services, Office of Sustainability and University Facilities Management organize the university’s participation in the Recyclemania competition. The departments use the competition, he said, to teach the people on campus why and how to recycle correctly because people sometimes fail to realize only certain items can be recycled while other items need to be thrown away.

For example, students can’t recycle every plastic item they have.

“We can only recycle…plastics one and two,” Weyand said. “So if you’ve got a piece of plastic, like this hand sanitizer, for example, is a one – that little ‘one’ symbol with the triangle around it – so when this is empty, I could recycle this. But if that little number was a three or four or five, six, seven, I can’t. I have to throw it away.”

Recyclemania began in January 2001 when Miami University and Ohio University went head-to-head in a recycling competition. Miami University won, but the national competition grew. Last year, 630 schools participated, according to the Recyclemania website.

Competition closer to home

Although Kent State participates in the national competition, Weyand said the departments decided to bring the competition closer to home, so they created the competition between the residence halls.

“We have hosted for the last several years as a hall vs. hall competition,” Weyand said. “We divide up all the resident halls into teams, and we track how many pounds per person that resident hall recycles.”

Engleman Hall won the competition last year and received $200 for the Hall Council fund. Weyand said, after the first week, Centennial Courts C and D are recycling the most so far with 2.32 pounds per person.

After the second week of competition, Engleman is in first place by recycling 5.81 pounds per person, according to statistics released by Residence Services, Office of Sustainability and University Facilities Management.

Johnson Hall dropped from third place the first week to fifth place the second week. Laura De’Armond, Stopher and Johnson halls residence director, said she does not think Johnson Hall residents are recycling less but other halls are recycling more.

“Each week we’re averaging two pounds per person,” De’Armond said. “So our average is staying pretty steady. That just means other halls stepped it up.”

Kent State is also competing against the University of Akron to see which university recycles more. Weyand said they contacted the recycling coordinator at Akron to plan this competition to get students more excited about recycling.

“We decided to try this year just to kind of feed off the spirit of the Kent State–Akron rivalry,” Weyand said. “Just to again see if it would fire people up to participate in Recyclemania.”

Kent State is beating Akron after two weeks. According to university statistics, Kent State has recycled 1.99 pounds per person versus Akron’s 1.60 pounds per person.

Heather White, manager of the Grounds Department, said she thinks Kent State will beat Akron because the university has participated in Recyclemania before.

“I think that any time we can be competitive that we’re going to see more improvement and more participation,” White said. “All things Akron, Kent likes to beat them, so there should be no difference.”

Weyand said at the end, whichever university wins will receive a “bragging wheel” like the Wagon Wheel the football teams trade.

Kent State’s recycling

Melanie Knowles, Office of Sustainability manager, said Portage County Recycling and Republic Waste Services sends the data by building to the university which sends it to Recyclemania.

This is the first year she has received the weight of the trash Kent State produces, Knowles said, which allowed her to find out what portion — 17 percent — of its entire waste stream is being recycled instead of going into a landfill.

“We never knew that number before,” Knowles said. “We had some estimates of it from a few years ago, but this is just giving us a lot more detail than we’ve ever had in the past.”

Weyand said Kent State uses single stream recycling.

“Meaning that you don’t have to sort your glass from your plastic from your paper,” he said. “It can all go in the same bin, and it all gets hauled away together.”

Because Kent State uses single stream recycling, the university cannot keep track of specifically how much paper, bottles, cans or food the university recycles. Weyand said the university pulls out and keeps track of how much cardboard it recycles.

Knowles said the university can do better than last year and still improve in its recycling.

“And that’s a goal to works towards,” she said. “And we’re looking at it right now, and it’s about 17 percent of our waste stream goes to recycling instead of a landfill, and you know that it’s good to know and have a goal to improve upon that.”

Aaron Ring, recycling coordinator and graduate assistant for the department of Universities Facilities Management, promotes and markets Recyclemania. He said he thinks Recyclemania is a great event with a good message, but he wishes Kent State students would recycle without the push of a competition.

“I wish that, you know, everyone just actively participated in recycling on their own behalf just to have a positive effect on the environment,” Ring said.

National competition

In the national competition, the university participates in the competition division, where the university actually competes against other universities for a ranking, Weyand said.

“That means we’re truly competing,” Weyand said. “Where as the benchmark there is less rules, and it’s more so, you know, finding out how your school would stack up against other recycling operations if you were to compete.”

Weyand said he is excited for the competition and hopes Kent State can improve from last year’s ranking of 202 of 363.

“I’d say we’re in the top half of the competing campus,” he said. “I’m optimistic that we’ll surpass last year’s results.”

Universities compete to see who can recycle the most and win first place. Weyand said making recycling a competition plays into people’s natural competitiveness.

“You have it be a competition to where ‘Oh, there’s points involved. I should do better because I want to have more points,’” Weyand said. “I just think that it’s kind of a making it a game and making it in some way that you can compete with your neighbor was just a natural way to get people excited about recycling.”

Weyand said the departments post the weekly results of Kent State’s progress in the three competitions on their Facebook page. Recyclemania will post the final results April 13, according to the website’s calendar.

Contact Alicia Balog at [email protected].