In challenge, GW recycles less than ’09

Despite continuing efforts to make the University more environmentally friendly, the University saw a 6 percent decline in per-person recycling compared to 2009 during a 10-week nationwide recycling program this semester.

GW joined 600 universities and colleges participating in RecycleMania from January 17 to March 27. The 10-week recycling competition, which is sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency aims, to raise recycling awareness on college campuses and reduce waste. The results of the study, released last Friday, come as GW prepares to release an overview of its Climate Action Plan, which is the University’s long-term plan to reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainability.

Compared to last year’s competition, the University saw a 9 percent drop in its average weekly recycling rate, a 6.2 percent decrease in recycling per person, and an increase of about 1 percent in pounds of waste generated per person, according to University data.

This year, GW ranked 155 out of 267 schools in the Grand Champion Competition – the recycling program’s main race – marking a fall from its 112th position out of 206 schools last year. American University captured third place in the entire nation and first place in D.C, while GW came in fourth in the District behind Georgetown and Catholic. The Grand Champion Competition compares recycling rates, which measure how much of the total waste is recycled in a given area.

Sophie Waskow, the stakeholder engagement coordinator of the Office of Sustainability, said the University has been working hard with students and staff on recycling training to make sure it is clear what can and cannot be recycled. She said it is “difficult to pinpoint what may have caused a reduction in our recycling rates,” and added the University will continue to try to get more people involved with RecycleMania.

Over the 10-week period, GW collected 408,077 pounds of recyclable material. The first two weeks of the competition were a trial period and did not count toward the final result, however, so GW was credited with recycling 360,491 pounds of recyclables. Last year, GW collected 383,157 pounds of recyclables during the official period, a decline of about 6 percent.

This year, events like waste-sorts on Kogan Plaza, “dorm storms” conducted by Campaign GW and the Residence Hall Association, and promotional events at several GW basketball games encouraged students to participate in RecycleMania, Waskow said.

The University redesigned the recycling program last year to make recycling easier for students who said it was inconvenient to recycle because of the location of the recycling bins. This year, the University put recycling bins in residence hall trash rooms and in dorm rooms to increase access.

“Recycling is very important toward achieving our sustainability goals. Competitions like RecycleMania help our community rally behind sustainability and reduce the amount of waste we put in the trash,” Waskow said.

Even though the University declined in rankings this year, Waskow said she is still hopeful about GW’s sustainability efforts in the future.

“RecycleMania is just one component of our sustainability efforts on campus,” said Wascow. “We would love to see increased participation in RecycleMania and overall recycling year over year from the GW.”

Alex Byers contributed to this report.

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