By Christopher Borro
For the next few months, recycling will become a competitive sport.
The University of Iowa Office of Sustainability has launched its 2018 RecycleMania campaign, aiming to get people to recycle more and recycle better.
RecycleMania is an eight-week competition, running from Feb. 4 to March 31, that pits universities across the United States and Canada against one another to try to recycle the highest percentage of waste possible.
“The overall goal of RecycleMania is to encourage and engage students, staff, and faculty to recycle more and landfill less,” Kathleen Brown, an intern in the Sustainability Office, said in an email to The Daily Iowan.
Sustainability Recycling Coordinator Elizabeth Mackenzie and Brown organized the campaign, which the UI has participated in since 2013.
“It’s becoming a part of the culture on campus,” Mackenzie said. “People expect it.”
Each week, students and others can complete certain recycling-related tasks for a chance to win prizes. Weekly goals include not using plastic bags during the fourth week and recycling paper during the sixth.
At the end of each week, prize drawings will be held for the those who participated in that week’s challenge. Completing at least four of the eight challenges allows entry for a grand prize, in which three winners will receive a one-hour massage at the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center.
The theme for the UI’s RecycleMania 2018 program is to “Recycle Right,” focusing on ensuring everything is recycled correctly.
“You want people to recycle, but you also want to make sure people are putting the right things in the right bin,” Mackenzie said.
George McCrory, a communications specialist for the Sustainability Office, said a lot of the activities are based on recycling better.
He gave the example of the recent cardboard ban that became law on Jan. 2, mandating Iowa City waste collectors not accept trash bins with cardboard in them.
“One little tip we’re telling people is you can take the unsoiled top of your pizza box and recycle that, and the bottom half you can put in the trash,” he said.
Additionally, Mackenzie said, because recycling laws often vary from town to town, RecycleMania would be used to integrate newer UI students with recycling in Iowa City.
Besides individual prizes, there will also be three trophies distributed each week to the residence hall, general education building, and UIHC building whose residents or faculty complete the most weekly challenges.
On an international scale, the UI is competing with more than 100 other universities to have the highest diversion rate.
This accounts for the percentage of waste material that was recycled during the competition. It is calculated by adding the weight of collected recyclable materials and composted waste and dividing it by the total weight of the school’s trash.
In 2017, the UI had a 42 percent diversion rate. Though the university has never had the highest diversion rate among Big Ten schools, it did place second among the division in 2014 and 2016.
“Ideally, we’d like it to be higher each year, but I’m more focused on getting more people on campus engaged,” Mackenzie said.