Competing to collect the most trash isn’t your typical varsity sport, but VCU has entered a nationwide competition to compare collected recyclables to the national average during the RecycleMania challenge this Spring.
In a 10-week competition, VCU and an estimated 630 schools will be racing to collect the largest amount of recyclables, least amount of trash and highest recycling per capita. The competition is set up similar to basketball brackets and continues weekly elimination rounds until one school is left. This is the second year of the RecycleMania competition. Winners of the competition ultimately receive bragging rights among university rivals, but can also win a recyclable trophy: a bowling pin made to appear like a tin man for the Waste Minimization Trophy.
Stephen Heinitz, the recycling and reuse coordinator for the Department of Environmental Conservation at VCU, said RecycleMania is “a way to educate the students, faculty and staff about recycling.”
Heinitz said he is committed to educating and empowering people about their contribution to recycling. He wants to give every person at VCU the opportunity to recycle along with educating them on why it is important.
“We are an education institution and we want to give everyone the opportunity to develop good recycling habits. If you want change, then make change,” he said.
That change is already taking place. According to the VCU Department of Environmental Conservation, the university community recycled 507 tons of paper, 266 tons of cardboard, 132 tons of scrap metal, 37 tons of computers and electronics in 2009 alone.
Junior English major Angelica Kennedy thinks the programs will motivate VCU to recycle even more. “I think (RecycleMania is) a fabulous thing because hopefully it will inspire people to not only recycle when they’re out and about, but also when they’re at home.”
VCU has developed programs to improve its impact on the environment over the past few years, including the creation of the “VCU Goes Green” initiative. The initiative began in 2008 when then-president Eugene Trani signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which promises to neutralize greenhouse gas emission on campus.
The university has set a goal to completely neutralize its carbon footprint, from facilities to dining halls, by 2050.
Heinitz said that this is a huge undertaking not only because of the size of VCU, but also because of the kinds of waste generated. Some wastes are even a biological challenge to not only recycle but dispose of on the medical campus.
RecycleMania began with a two week pre-season ending February 3, the start of the national competition. More information can be found online. CT