CC Students Join National Recycling Competition
By Emil G. Dimantchev ’11
Colleges and universities across the U.S. are getting in shape, preparing for a fierce competition. But this contest is not over sport or debates. Educational institutions are locking horns over a different discipline: sorting trash. This year, 567 schools will show their commitment to lean waste streams during Recyclemania, a nationwide annual competition. Colorado College, where preparations for the tournament run high among college administrators and students, will proudly join the national effort. The competition, which takes place for the 11th time this year, started on Feb. 6 and runs until April 2.
In addition to giving schools a way to show each other who’s who in the world of waste minimization, Recyclemania also helps colleges assess their recycling programs against those of other schools. The competitors are ranked according to four different criteria: amount of recycled material per capita, amount of total recycled material, amount of total waste per capita, and recycling rate (the percentage of waste recycled). These rankings tell a comprehensive story about waste on a college campus, and they say a lot about us at Colorado College.
This year, CC is participating for the third time in Recyclemania. In the past, we have done well at recycling itself. During the 2009 competition, we recycled 46 percent of our total weekly waste, on average. As a result, we placed 22nd out of 206 schools. A year later, we ranked third in recycling rates at the 2010 competition. However, we have consistently ranked among the worst schools in the “total waste per capita” category. We throw away more stuff than most other schools do, even though we recycle a good portion of it. During the 2009 tournament, each CC student generated 91 pounds of total waste per week. In comparison, the average student in the nation threw away 53 pounds. This placed us 130th out of 148 schools in the category of waste minimization.
Director of Custodial Operations Tom Allen coordinates our participation in Recyclemania. Allen commented on CC’s past performance in the tournament, saying that people are usually more familiar with the idea of recycling rather than waste minimization. He said, however, that it is possible for a school do to very well at both. “We just need to drastically lower our total waste and still continue to recycle at a high percentage as we do now,” advised Allen.
To improve recycling and waste minimization, Colorado College has enacted several initiatives, including a single-stream recycling system and composting at Rastall and the CC Garden. Some of the latest initiatives of EnAct, the student environmental club, have focused on phasing out plastic bags and water bottles on campus. These efforts, however, are not always enough. “Beyond these efforts, a lot depends on individual and departmental choices,” said CC Sustainability Coordinator Emily Wright ’04. Wright suggested several ways students and members of the college community can minimize waste: using one’s purchasing power to avoid excessive packaging; buying in bulk; choosing reusable, reliable, necessary products with long lives over disposable items; and carrying reusable items such as coffee mugs, water bottles, grocery bags, and bulk containers.
At CC, Recyclemania is not only a time for comparing statistics, but also for many students to meet their trash face to face during EnAct’s “Trash Peak.” For the event, employees of CC’s facilities grounds team, custodial services, and students collaborate to heap one day’s worth of CC trash around the Worner Quad flagpole. EnAct co-chairs Mallory LeeWong and Katherine Peterson said the purpose of the event is to raise awareness regarding waste at CC and to emphasize that trash adds up quickly on a college campus. “Many people do not consider how much trash they generate, or how much an entire campus generates,” the co-chairs said. At the event, students truly get close with their trash, as they audit trash bags, gloves provided, to find out what it is exactly that we send to the landfill every day. Previous years’ audits showed that much of what goes into the trash bags is recyclable, compostable, or reusable. According to Wright, “in 2009 … 45 percent of the material in Trash Peak could have been diverted from the landfill. In 2010, it was down to 40 percent.” LeeWong and Peterson invite everybody to visit the Trash Peak, date to-be-announced, enjoy some music and grilling by the Carnivore Club, and join other students in the trash’s audit, (gloves provided).
In addition to Trash Peak, CC will kick off Recyclemania with “Bring Your Own Mug Day at Colorado Coffee,” which is a collaborative event by EnAct and Bon Apetit. On Wednesday, Feb. 9, Colorado Coffee will not be offering any hot or cold disposable cups, to encourage people to bring their own reusable ones. If you don’t have a mug, you will have the option to buy a reusable one with your gold card.
In the next weeks, we will have a chance to see how many recyclables we throw in the trash, and perhaps what it takes to always carry a reusable mug around. But we also are entering a nationwide recycling brawl. And this year, CC can do better to uphold its image as a leader in sustainability.