Environmental Column: Recyclemania



Like most schools, Colgate produces a lot of trash: around 2 million pounds was sent to the Madison County Landfill last year. This waste was responsible for over 880 tons of greenhouse gas emissions and cost nearly $60,000 in tipping fees, the charge levied upon waste processed by a facility. About thirty percent of that trash is recyclable, so in order to save money and be more sustainable Colgate is looking at ways to improve recycling on campus. Just this year, Colgate has already stepped up recycling initiatives by adding signs to many of the recycling bin locations to be clearer about what can be recycled and where to put it. As it turns out, Madison County recycles all plastics (numbers 1-7) including plastic bottles, jugs, stackable tubs, small plastic containers, plastic bags and all deposit bottles. Also of worthy mention is pizza boxes which, contrary to popular belief among college students, are recyclable even if they do have a coating of greasy residue or some leftover cheese.

To further increase recycling awareness and participation, Colgate will be entering Recyclemania for the first time this year. Recyclemania is a national competition that engages schools and universities in waste reduction activities. Its purpose is to serve as a benchmarking tool for on-campus recycling programs. The competition will begin next semester and will span a ten-week period during which students, faculty and staff will attempt to recycle at unprecedented levels. Records will be kept on the amount and types of trash that is recycled and the results will be sent to the Recyclemania headquarters where they will be assessed. Colgate will then be ranked in comparison to other participating institutions based on the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the greatest amount of total recyclables, the least amount of trash per capita, and the overall highest recycling rate.

There are also several awards given out for specific categories of recyclables. For example, last year Stephens College won the award for paper recycling while students of Kalamazoo College were bottle and can champions. While the competition itself is quite lighthearted, the results have been significant. In 2009, almost seventy million pounds of trash was recycled by around five hundred schools participating in the competition.