Recycling competition progresses despite some student apathy

Alice Kemp
Contributing Writer

The Recycle Mania competition is spreading like wildfire across the country with over six hundred schools participating. Despite strong national support for the program, some say VCU is having trouble encouraging uninterested students to participate.

In an effort to promote the campus-wide Recycle Mania competition, VCU has spent three to four thousand dollars worth of recycling containers since the start of the event. Even more money has been poured into promoting the event through fliers, closed-circuit television broadcasts, free T-shirts and banners.

“The biggest thing is promotion … We want to make recycling contagious,” said Steven Heinitz, recycling coordinator at VCU’s Environmental Conservation and Facilities Management department.  “This competition helps us internally and gives us the opportunity to compare to others.”

However, students do not seem to share Heinitz’s enthusiasm for the competition.

“Not too many people read fliers anymore,” said Dana Zaryczny, a senior. “A lot of us don’t know much about it.”

Those who are aware of the competition see it as an inconvenience to take their recycling to the campus bins, according to Heinitz and Zaryczny.

VCU is also having trouble reaching the many off-campus students. Currently, Recycle Mania is on campus only, requiring off campus students to bring their recycling to a campus bin if they want to participate.

“I don’t think they’re gonna go out of their way to take their recycling to the school when they could just take it outside,” said Jessica Bowley, a senior who lives off-campus.

Acknowledging this concern, Steven Heinitz is working to establish an outside location where students are able to take their recycling. Progress is slow and space is always an issue as Heinitz has been turned down several times when proposing various locations for a drop off, such as an old Ukrops.

Adding more headaches, tracking the volume of waste and recycling for the competition is tricky because a weight-based measuring system is used.

“Our weights are always behind … We pretty much have to estimate,” Heinitz said.

Estimates are used to track the university’s progress until accurate numbers come in from contractors such as Waste Management. When these arrive, the competition allows coordinators to record their results and see the final placement among rival colleges.

Despite these obstacles, VCU is doing fairly well in the competition. The university has been participating for the past three years, as required by the President’s Climate Committee. Last year, the university was in the top 30 percent out of more than five hundred participating colleges and universities. This year, the goal is to reach 35 percent of materials to be recycled.

The Recycle Mania competition gives the university an opportunity to build up the base for collection and push students, faculty, and staff to reduce, reuse and recycle.

“There are obstacles, but it is more about the opportunity to get recycling into peoples’ minds … I’ve learned from years past what works and what doesn’t work,” Heinitz said.

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