RecycleMania off to a good start, Eco-Reps say

By Samantha Sutton

RecycleMania, a national competition that aims to promote waste reduction on college campuses, is now in full swing at Rider and waste results from the past two weeks show a promising start, according to Sustainability Coordinator Melissa Greenberg.

The remnants of food on the conveyor belt at Daly’s travel to the kitchen. According to Sustainability Coordinator Melissa Greenberg, Rider composted 9 tons of food waste last week.

Greenberg reports that most of the waste recorded was from food, which is recyclable, and not from actual trash.

“We did 9 tons food and organic waste and then we had almost 9 tons of recycling,” she said. “It’s all bottles, cans, aluminum, glass, cardboard and paper. Our trash was only 4 tons.”

The competition, which officially started this week, tracks the amount of waste each of the participating colleges accumulates each week. While the amount of waste recorded since Feb. 6 only counted as a “trial period” for the competition, Rider has already seen a significant drop in actual trash compared to past years.

According to the RecycleMania website, RecycleManiacs.org, there are four different categories a college can compete under. The categories include Grand Champion and Waste Minimization, as well as four separate targeted material categories, which focus on paper, corrugated cardboard, bottles and cans, and food service organics.

Greenberg said the most important category for Rider is Waste Minimization.

“We look at this a lot because obviously our goal is to reduce waste. There are 142 schools participating in that competition,” she said.

Another important focus of the competition for Rider is the ability to record the amount of food waste the school produces. For this part of the competition, the results are calculated per capita. This way Rider is able to compete against both larger and smaller universities.

Looking at the results recorded from the week of Feb. 6, Rider is holding its own against other schools, such as Rutgers.

“With the food waste, in the first week we did nine tons. That came out to be 2.74 pounds per student,” Greenberg said. “Rutgers did 2.8 pounds so we were right behind them. Princeton University recorded 2.5 pounds per student. So, we were actually ahead of Princeton and just behind Rutgers. It’s a really good comparison.”

So what exactly do these results mean for Rider?

According to Greenberg, it can save the school money because it’s “cheaper to haul food waste than it is to take trash to the landfill.”

This year, Rider’s food waste will go to Wilmington Organic Recycling Center in Wilmington, Del., where it will be turned into compost, which is then used as organic fertilizer.

“Not only is it a dollar savings but it’s an environmental savings,” Greenberg said. “We don’t have food going and sitting in a landfill causing methane gas.”

Also recorded during RecycleMania’s first week was the percentage of recyclable waste the school produced.

Rider is reported to have accumulated 67 percent of recyclable waste. Drew University reported 72 percent and Rutgers had only 52 percent recyclable waste.

Although this is Rider’s fourth year participating in RecycleMania, according to the website, the competition itself has been going on since 2001. RecycleMania was only between two colleges at first, Ohio University and Miami University, but has continued to grow in size each year. By 2009, 510 schools were participating in the competition.

Greenberg predicts that this will be Rider’s most successful year yet.

“Just based on the trial, I think we are going to do really well this year,” she said. “I think this is going to be our best year.”

Even if Rider doesn’t win RecycleMania, the main goal of the competition is about raising awareness.

“So far, we have sent out an e-mail blast and have an ad on Axis TV that will run the full eight weeks of RecycleMania,” said Amanda Pinto, who is a graduate assistant for sustainability at Rider. “In Daly’s, Cranberry’s, and the Dining Commons we have ads in the napkin holders. There is also a vinyl banner hung up in Daly’s, along with a chart where the Eco-Reps will record the results each week and compare them to four other New Jersey schools that are participating in RecycleMania. We are also having a PSA video contest that started this week.”

Aside from advertising the competition, there are plans to work with the Greek Houses on campus and to have small events and information sessions about recycling in the upcoming weeks.

“There’s definitely been a difference,” said Greenberg of the results being reported. “The Eco-Reps do trash room audits and just from the beginning of last year to the end of last year, and then to now, people are getting so much better about putting the recycling in the recycling cans.”

Lawrenceville Eco-Rep junior Brenna Simonson believes that RecycleMania is off to a great start.

“We performed exceptionally better last year than the year before, and this year looks like it is going to top that, thanks in part to the new food waste recycling program in Daly’s and Cranberry’s,” she said. “We hope that this competition will help to raise awareness throughout the Rider campus about recycling in general and encourage more people to do their part to help the environment.”

RecycleMania will continue until April 2. For more information about the PSA contest, students can e-mail Amanda Pinto at pintoa@rider.edu.

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