CMU competes in RecycleMania

Carnegie Mellon University is participating in the RecycleMania competition this year, which is bigger in 2008 than ever before. The 10-week competition began on Feb. 6.

During RecycleMania, participating schools collect data on the amount of recyclables and trash collected each week and engage in friendly competition to encourage recycling and waste reduction.

According to RecycleManiacs, schools compete in four categories: largest amount of recyclables per capita, largest amount of total recyclables, least amount of trash per capita, and highest recycling rate.

The school with the largest amount of total recyclables wins the Gorilla Prize, and the school with the highest recycling rate will be declared Grand Champion. The recycling rate is calculated by dividing the weight of recyclables by the weight of trash and recyclables and multiplying the result by 100.

Three weeks into the competition, Carnegie Mellon has a recycling rate of about 18 percent, according to results published at RecycleManiacs. That puts the university about two percent ahead of where it was after three weeks of competition a year ago. But it’s still behind Yale, Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton, which are posting 19.5, 28, 29.9, and 31 percent respectively.

In addition to fierce competition, changes are in order for this year’s competition.

Barbara Kviz, environmental coordinator in Facilities Management Services, said one of the major changes to RecycleMania this year is the number of schools participating. It’s doubled since last year — jumping from 200 to 400.

And the way schools are matched up has changed, too.

“This year we have changed the way the schools compete against each other,” RecycleMania co-founder Edward Newman said. “ ‘ Whole’ schools are competing against ‘whole’ schools, and ‘partial’ schools are competing against ‘partial’ schools.”

A “whole” school is one that’s willing to submit data from all of its buildings, including auxiliaries and satellite facilities, while a “partial” school submits data for only a few specific buildings, such as residence halls.

Carnegie Mellon is competing as a “whole” school.

Newman, of Ohio University, started RecycleMania seven years ago with Stacy Edmonds Wheeler of Miami University. The competition was smaller back then, pitting only those two universities against one another. Since then, it’s attracted many institutions from across the United States — military, religious, American Indian, big, small, private, public, and Ivy League.

Newman is working on involving international schools, as well. “I aim at reaching out to Canadian and Mexican schools,” he said.

Though the winners get trophies made of trash and bragging rights, the main goal is for schools to compete against their own standards, Newman said. If a school can come out with a better reduction of waste and higher recovery of materials than last year, the competition is a success.

Kviz encouraged students to do their part to help Carnegie Mellon climb in the rankings. “If you do have paper or cans, look for the blue bins because it does get recycled,” she said.