Southern completes another RecycleMania contest

Josh Falcone – General Assignment Reporter

Recently Southern Connecticut State University completed the 2014 RecycleMania competition, the contest took place from Feb. 2 to March 29.

RecycleMania is an eight-week contest where schools report their recycling and trash figures, which are ranked to see who collected the largest amount of recyclables, and the least amount of trash. The participating schools can compare their numbers to other schools.

According to Recycling Coordinator Heather Stearns, this is the fifth year Southern has taken part in the RecycleMania competition.

Stearns said the university had until early April to file the official numbers with the RecycleMania organization and she did not currently know the official numbers yet, but she did have the numbers for an internal competition amongst the schools residence halls, and that they were wonderful.

“For our internal competition amongst the residence halls, we have seen great numbers, so we are really happy,” Stearns said. “We have seen just in Residence Life, because we created this internal competition amongst the nine halls, we have seen an increase of 1.96 tons over last year, almost two tons of recycling, which equates to about 3,900 pounds of recycling and we have also seen an 18 percent reduction in trash, which is huge.”

Stearns said the residence in the halls should be commended for a job well done.

“I’m just hoping that this message continues throughout the year and they are cognizant of their efforts and that it should continue,” she said.

As part of the contest among the residence halls, the winner was given a dessert party this past Monday evening and all those that attended were given a pair of sweatpants for their effort, Stearns said.

“This year it was Neff Hall, which Neff Hall took it last year as well, two years in a row which is kind of nice for Neff. And I think one of the important things to point out about Neff Hall is that they are the smallest hall, with the least amount of people, and they had the most amount of recycling, so commendable.”

The numbers increased significantly over last year across in the residence halls, which made the department happy, but also across the entire campus, Stearns said.

“So we are very happy with that but overall on campus in 2013 we were at 40.85 tons of recycling and this year we are at 43.79 tons,” she said, “so it is like overall a four percent increase in recycling on the overall campus. “So we are really happy, I think it is moving in the right direction so that is all we can really ask for and that the message is out there, it is clear, students are really conscience about it, and doing their part.”

Another part of the contest that Southern took part in was an electronic waste drive, Stearns said, but unfortunately the exact final numbers were currently unavailable as well.

“With RecycleMania, you pick four weeks out of the eight week competition that you want to collect e-waste on campus, which we did for the entire month of March,” Stearns said. “We collected and sent out 14 pallets worth of e-waste, we are waiting on numbers for that to see how we did. The drive included things like printers, computers, hard drives, and copiers, things like that.”

The hope is that the university performed well in the electronic waste drive, Stearns said.

“I’m hoping that we do well with that, we did really well last year in the competition and I think we will definitely rank this year as well,” she said, “fingers crossed on that one.”

Stearns said that recycling is an important part of the contest and the university’s program.

“So we will certainly look at the recycling but the recycling only pertains to a few commodities, and it is the bottles, cans, plastic, paper, and cardboard,” Stearns said. “So those are the things that are collected and weighed, they are weighed each week by our hauler, All-American Waste, comes and picks up recycling on Friday’s.”

All-American Waste weighs the material then gives the office the numbers for each building on the campus, so they can see how well each building does, Stearns said.

Another part of RecycleMania, Stearns said, is waste minimization.

“The other piece of it is there is a waste minimization category, to see if you can reduce your waste, increasing your recycling and hopefully reducing your waste because it really is about creating less waste, which is what we are really looking at,” Stearns said.

The waste minimization category ties into the Presidents Climate Commitment, according to Stearns.

“The President’s Climate Commitment was signed by a previous president, Cheryl Norton, and basically what it says is, that we agree to become climate neutral by 2050,” she said. “And it is an agreement that many presidents at many universities across the nation are signing.”

Stearns said the goal of the university was to participate in waste minimization via the RecycleMania competition to assist in becoming climate neutral and this is an area where the entire campus is doing a good job and she hopes this will continue.

“We are doing better, Res Life is doing fantastic, but I think overall as a campus that is another focal point for us, to not only focus on the recycling and thinking sustainability is recycling,” she said. “Sustainability is also about waste reduction, so that is a new education piece that we will be focusing on in the future.”

The RecycleMania competition, in addition to the recycling and waste minimization, Stearns said, also includes three more categories.

“They have done a game day recycling program which is optional if a school wants to participate,” Stearns said, “the e-waste drive, which is also optional, but since we already have that in progress here, it was easy to join. And then the third one was some plastic film recycling, which we don’t do a lot of here, so we didn’t participate in that one.”

Stearns said Southern has had a lot of success with overall recycling over the past year.

“Our overall diversion weight, which means how much material we generate on campus both recycling and trash and how much of it was diverted away from landfill was 62 percent last year,” she said. “That included the demolition of Seabury Hall, I like to say we recycled Seabury Hall last year, this included like rebar, some metal, and some concrete, so basically the entire building was able to be recycled which was really great.”

Southern also increased its recycling by 37 percent and reduced waste by ten percent last year, Stearns said, and when compared to those numbers, this year’s look to be on track.

“We may see a little bit of reduction in the recycling just because we are not taking down any big buildings,” she said.

According to Stearns, the university has a great program in place for future construction and demolition sites to recycle whatever materials they can; this includes the remodel of Buley library and the new science building.

“They provide me with monthly statistics, so we are including that in our diversion rates now,” she said.

Prior to going single stream, Southern’s contract cost about $50,000, but now with the university being a single stream recycling campus, the cost has gone down, Stearns said.

“We have reduced cost, we are probably around $8,000 a year,” Stearns said before adding, “I have yet to calculate in some of the recycling savings on the e-waste side, but once I do, my goal is that we will be at zero.”

Stearns said the ultimate goal is to get the university to not have to pay a cent to recycle due to rebating metal and the free services received by the school from recycling.

“It is just getting better and better,” she said, “and we are really pleased.”

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