University takes part in annual recycling competition

The University is answering a challenge issued to schools across North America to a waste reduction and recycling competition as part of the annual RecycleMania contest that kicked off this week.

The competition, organized by the College and University Recycling Council, encourages university communities to reduce the amount of resources they consume while promoting recycling programs at participating colleges.

GW began reporting its recycling and trash data to RecycleMania administrators Jan. 22 and will continue for a total of 10 weeks.

“By framing recycling in terms of a competition, we are reaching out to what’s relevant in students’ lives instead of trying to sell a ‘save-the-earth’ kind of message that won’t necessarily resonate with many college students,” Alec Cooley, program manager for RecycleMania, said.

The first two weeks of RecycleMania serve as a pre-season trial period, during which schools practice reporting the weight of waste and recycled products. During the eight-week competition period, which begins Feb. 5, GW will compete against more than 300 universities to cut trash output.

The RecycleMania website will update each school’s progress weekly until a winner is announced in April. Schools will be judged in six categories, including waste reduction and increased collection of recyclable materials like cans, bottles and paper.

The University plans to kick off RecycleMania with its annual Waste Sort, where students gather Feb. 7 in Kogan Plaza to sift through piles of trash to find items that could have been recycled. Increasing eco-friendly practices at the University has been a priority since the founding of the Office of Sustainability in late 2008.

Since 2010, GW reduced its trash production by about 100,000 pounds.

To prepare for this year’s competition, GW eco-reps will audit residence halls to ensure that waste and recycling containers are labeled correctly and in their proper locations.

“During the Dorm Storm, we are hoping to remind people of things, like they can’t recycle a very greasy pizza box or a tomato can half full of tomatoes because they mess up everything else and the entire bag ends up in the trash,” Kimia Pakdaman, a sophomore eco-rep for Mitchell Hall, said.

GreenGW, an environmental student organization, plans to host a “Don’t Be Trashy: Recycle” fashion show toward the end of the competition to display outfits made from reused and recycled materials.

Last year, the University finished first among participating D.C. schools in total recycled material per student, but ranked well below Georgetown and slightly below Howard and American Universities in recycling rate as a percentage of overall waste generation.

“It is important to remember that the first two ‘Rs’ are reduce and reuse – and then recycle. If we generate less trash, while also recycling more, our percentages will increase,” Sophie Waskow, GW’s sustainability project facilitator, said. “Small actions add up to big results. The more students turn off lights, recycle properly, take shorter showers, use reusable water bottles, the better GW’s sustainability footprint will be.”

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