FILE - Recycle Mania Intern Elana Becker kicks off Earth Month in the Office of Sustainability on Monday, March 28, 2016. The Office of Sustainability just ended Recycle Mania, and is encouraging students to carry their trash bags over their backs around campus this week as a way to raise awareness of how much trash a single person can produce. (The Daily Iowan/file)

Recyclemania surges through UI


By Charles Peckman

Recyclemania, an annual, campus-wide event that started on Feb. 5, has a simple goal: reduce waste throughout the University of Iowa campus.

This is the fifth year in a row the UI has participated in Recyclemania.

In 2016, the UI placed second in the Big Ten during the nationwide Recyclemania competition. This is up from 2015, when the UI placed fifth in the Big Ten.

The results from the first week are in: Students flocked in droves to the nearest recycling bin, with more than 700 students signing an online pledge to recycle.

From data released by UI recycling coordinator Beth Mackenzie, 67 percent of waste on campus was recycled last week, which prevented 123,000 pounds of material from being dumped in the landfill.

In addition to the amount of material recycled, the UI General Hospital took home the “Week 1 RecyHawk Trophy,” which will stay in its possession until next week’s results are posted.

Burge Residence Hall took home the “Week 1 RecyHawk Res Hall Trophy,” which will stay in its possession until next week’s results are published as well.

Sara Maples, the interim director of sustainability, said the first week’s data “looked really good.”

“Our normal rate of recycling is 42 percent, but for the first week of Recyclemania we were able to get up to 67 percent,” she said.

The effort put into the event is paying off, she said, and thus far the numbers are looking good.

“[Recyclemania] is about seeing a little bit of competition between schools, but it’s also about making it exciting,” she said.

Regardless of the data, Mackenzie said, there is always room for improvement.

“Even if you don’t believe in climate change, there are still reasons to recycle,” she said.

Mackenzie said while there are environmental benefits to recycling, there are health benefits as well. To her, there are many reasons people choose not to recycle.

“There are many factors that play into it,” she said. “Some of it can be contributed to simple human behavior — the color of the recycling bin can even play a role.”

Mackenzie said ultimately convenience is the main issue.

“People are busy, and they don’t take the few extra seconds to sort their trash and recyclables,” said George McCrory, a communications specialist in the Sustainability Office.

He said he always encourages people to recycle more and better.

This, he said, can be done in a number of ways, but Recyclemania is an “excellent example.”

“[Recyclemania] is a good program for students, staff and faculty,” McCrory said.

McCrory said small acts such as tearing the tops off of pizza boxes and keeping an eye out for Tetra Paks, highly recyclable food containers, can make a large difference.

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