By Melanie Hunter
Recyclemania is back at Rider, challenging students and staff alike to think consciously about what they throw into the trash on a daily basis. The competition is in full swing across the country, with 383 schools racing to achieve national recognition for their efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle.
After one week of trial competition, Rider is still well above the national average of 7 lbs. of trash per person on a daily basis, says Melissa Greenberg, sustainability coordinator at Rider. The school placed 118th out of 156 schools with 8.2 lbs. per person.
Out of four possible categories to compete in, Rider’s main focus is on waste minimization. Schools see who can produce the least amount of municipal waste, which includes both recyclables and trash. Greenberg says the focus of the contest is manifold.
“The goal is not just to get people to put less in the trash and recycle everything they can, but also to reduce what they recycle,” Greenberg said. “It’s important to remember that everything you place into a receptacle has to go somewhere.”
Recyclemania kicked off nationwide on Jan. 17. Although Rider was not in session until Jan. 25, data were still submitted for the first week based on trash pickups during that time.
Recyclemania.org initially misreported Rider’s population of full-time students and faculty. However, Greenberg says, even with the corrected numbers, the Rider community still exceeds the average per person rate for trash. Despite this, Rider ranked better than several area schools including Rutgers and Princeton, as well as other schools such as Harvard, Yale and Stanford.
In addition, Rider placed 48th out of 243 schools in the Per Capita Classic, which measures how many pounds each person recycles. Currently, Rider is recycling 2.12 lbs. per person.
Greenberg believes that,while Rider may not be in the lead, the school will continue to see an overall reduction in the amount of waste produced. She also stressed that it would take a few weeks for the numbers to accurately reflect how much Rider is throwing away.
“It’s not an exact science,” she said. “Trucks make multiple stops along a route, and they use a formula to determine how much in the truck came from each site. But there will be a reduction. The less we can send to the landfills, the better.”
In addition to the contest, participation in Recyclemania also counts as a “tangible item” on the Presidents’ Climate Commitment (PCC) preliminary action list. While the university is in the process of developing a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality on campus, the agreement states, two or more initiatives must be undertaken in the meantime. President Rozanski became a signatory of the PCC in the spring of 2007.
Signs encouraging students to participate are posted in the residence halls and common areas. The campus’s Eco-Reps are also helping to promote the event through word-of-mouth. Chris Shepherd, an Eco-Rep and junior science and elementary education major, says that efforts are being redoubled this year.
“Eco-Reps on both campuses are going full force to inform the community as to how we can minimize our waste,” he said. “We are encouraging students to divert things from the waste stream and to minimize what they use in the forms of disposables.”
The trial period ends this week, and the real competition will begin on Feb. 7. But more important than the race, Greenberg says, is the attention Recyclemania will bring to sustainability issues.
“It’s fun to look at the rankings and see where you are, but ultimately, it’s about awareness,” she said. “Over the next eight weeks, my hope is that students form new habits that will last.”
For tips on how to reduce what you throw away, see “Green Corner” on page 9.