Recycling competition ends at UI today


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The University of Iowa has reached the end of an eight-week recycling competition, and although it doesn’t look like the UI will come out on top, officials said they’re encouraged by how the contest engaged students.

The UI officially competed in Recyclemania for the first time this year. The competition ended on Sunday night, and involved more than 500 schools in the United States in Canada who worked to promote waste reduction activities on campus. Final results won’t be available until April 12, but the UI is currently ranked No. 122 out of all schools.

Although the university didn’t pull out a win, officials said they’re excited with their progress and will continue to compete in Recyclemania. The results of the UI’s recycling efforts mean more than one contest, UI Office of Sustainability Director Liz Christiansen said.

At the moment, the UI’s total waste diversion rate is 32 percent, meeting the halfway mark for the 2020 sustainability plan.

“We have had increased interest and raised visibility of the recycling program, which is important for the 2020 sustainability project of 60 percent diversion,” Christiansen said.

Although the competition phase has come to an end, UI Recycling Director Eric Holthaus said sustainability officials will continue to find ways to increase the recycling rate on campus.

“We are doing recycling observation projects and evaluating if existing recycling bins are consistent with trash cans,” he said. “We also want to start accommodating different strings of recycling as well, such as plastic bags, batteries, and glass.”

The UI Sustainability Office worked with the residence halls to help engage students with the competition. Officials set up fliers and tables numerous times during the eight-week period.

Christiansen said another benefit of Recyclemania is that officials will look to see what other schools did to promote recycling on campus and possibly employ those ideas at the UI.

Competitors from Big Ten schools, such as Michigan State University and Purdue University, employed creative ways to interest students.

“We’ve tried to engage students by doing a March Madness bracket for the residence halls,” said Michael Gulich, the director of sustainability at Purdue. “This year, we’ve really started targeting the residence halls.”

Dan Svedarsky, the director of the Center for Sustainability at the University of Minnesota-Crookston, said universities in rural areas have more trouble engaging students in sustainability than universities with a more urban population.

Michigan State succeeded in developing long-term initiatives during the Recylemania competition.
“This year, we eliminated more than 100 trashcans for one week but then decided to eliminate them indefinitely once we realized how much material could be recycled,” said Kris Jolley, the manager of the Michigan State Surplus Store and Recycling.

Similarly, the UI Sustainability Office is working with UI Student Government and the residence halls to add recycling bins to the T. Anne Cleary Walkway for one week to increase outside recycling around campus.

“We are striving for consistency and allowing students to have two options for disposing waste, rather than one,” Holthaus said. “Recycling is part of being responsible and a part of civics.”

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