In an effort to not only lessen waste on campus but also recover from last year’s loss to Harvard, Yale once again will participate in the annual recycling competition that includes 49 colleges and universities across the United States.
The fifth annual RecycleMania will kick off this Friday, providing universities with a competitive venue in which to better the environment. The competition, measuring pounds of recycled items per student each week, as well as the total percentage of trash recycled in a 10-week period, will end on Earth Day, April 18, when one deserving university will walk away with a trophy.
“It’s like The Game that we can all participate in,” Yale Recycling Coordinator Cyril May said, referring to the annual Harvard-Yale football game. “Not everyone gets to play in The Game but everybody gets to battle Harvard in the dumpster.”
It was this competitive nature that inspired the birth of RecycleMania in 2001. Co-founded by recycling mangers at Ohio’s Miami University and Ohio University, the competition started as a rivalry between the two schools in a challenge to see who could recycle the most in a 10-week period.
“We found that competition and rivalry speaks to people a lot more strongly than saving the planet and doing the right thing,” said Edward Newman, the refuse and recycling manager at Ohio University and co-founder of RecycleMania.
Finishing last year’s competition in first and third place respectively, Miami and Ohio University have paved the way as the founding universities in recycling and waste reduction, while first-timer Dartmouth College managed to earn second place in last year’s competition among 17 colleges and universities. Organizers at Yale, which finished 10th last year, behind seventh-placed Harvard, hopes to not only claim victory this year but spread awareness on campus about the practice of recycling and waste reduction.
Recycling managers at both Yale and Harvard said that a reason for their relatively lower recycling rates in recent years is due to the very structure of older universities, particularly those in the Ivy League.
“Our buildings were never designed with recycling in mind,” May said.
Harvard’s recycling coordinator said the very thing which gives Harvard and Yale their style and character — their old and historic campuses — also hinders their capacities to recycle.
“Most of the dormitory buildings that Harvard, Yale and older schools occupy are old and narrow,” Harvard Supervisor of Waste Management Rob Gogan said. “You have to do everything by hand and by bag. Most of the older dorm buildings, like most buildings, are not elevator equipped.”
One older university that is an exception to the rule is Dartmouth, which has managed to make do with its structural design.
“We have a really good recycling program that we’ve had since the early 1980s,” Dartmouth Campus Civil Engineer Elizabeth Ashworth said. “Recycling is a part of life here at Dartmouth College.”
Newman said the University of Oregon is one college to watch in this year’s competition.
“Oregon had one week where they had 8.1 pounds per person, per week — 2 pounds more than us on any given week,” said Newman, from Ohio. “I don’t know what they have in store for us this year.”
Yale, which averaged 2.73 pounds per week in last year’s competition, has some work ahead of it if it wants to secure first place, but May said he has faith in Yalies’ abilities to recycle.
“We just have to get everybody pushing in the right direction,” May said. “All of us are trying to get Yalies to see themselves not just as blue but also as green.”