Pitt recycles its way to top in Big East

By Brett Murphy

Pitt resides near the top of the Big East in a number of sports, and at the moment, it dominates… Pitt resides near the top of the Big East in a number of sports, and at the moment, it dominates the conference in recycling, too.

The Pitt Housing Department, Facilities Management, Residence Life and Free the Planet are in their third year participating in the national RecycleMania competition. Each year, the University has received more recyclables as consciousness grows, and Pitt currently leads the Big East in total pounds of recycled material this year, said Allison Plummer, student assistant ability coordinator for Pitt’s Housing Department.

According to RecycleMania’s statistics, Pitt has recycled almost 290,000 pounds of waste so far in the competition — almost 30,000 pounds more than the same time in last year. In a two-week “preliminary” competition, Rutgers topped the nation and Pitt came in 67th in terms of overall recycling.

Plummer said that updated statistics — to be released this week — will show that Pitt is topping the Big East in recycled material.

The 10th-annual competition — run by the College and University Recycling Council, part of the nonprofit National Recycling Council — tries to encourage recycling on college campuses through a 10-week competition in per capita and total recycling. The new RecycleMania link on my.pitt.edu describes the event as “a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities.”

Plummer attributed this year’s success directly to good publicizing, resulting in enthusiastic student participation.

“Every year student awareness gets a little better,” Plummer said. “And with great help from the RAs and facilities, it’s hard to walk anywhere around campus without seeing signs for [RecyleMania].”

She said the Student Government Board members have taken an interest in raising awareness by making announcements at public meetings — much to the avail of Ryan Gayman and Emily Hoover, who are the Free the Planet liaisons in SGB.

Plummer is also a member of Free the Planet, the student group that is responsible for much of the groundwork of RecyleMania. Representatives from Free The Planet referred questions to Plummer.

“Right now, FTP is sort of in charge of disseminating information to [the campus] through student avenues,” Plummer said. “And most of the volunteer work was coordinated using Free the Planet labor.”

The signs, fliers and posters hanging around campus and throughout the dorms augment this year’s revamped RecyleMania campaign — which includes recycle bins in nearly every campus building, a link on my.pitt.edu and a new commercial-grade composting system in Market Central, Plummer said. The composter breaks down the organic matter in leftover food scraps into a soil-like product that recycles nutrients back into the soil.

“The entire composting process results in a total waste reduction of 85% in Market Central and produces a rich soil amendment that can be used to grow more fruits and vegetables,” according to the RecycleMania link on my.pitt.edu.

Patrick Heffley — the building superintendent in Towers — attributes this year’s green success to those students who put in the effort to recycle.

“It’s always up to the student. We put everything there for them and get everything in the housing buildings,” Heffley said. “But it comes down to the students caring about walking the extra 10 steps to recycle their water bottle.”

Lauren Stander and Troy Novak gladly take those 10 steps ­­­­— or more ­­— everyday.

Novak — a freshman in Tower A — goes through four water bottles every day and rides the elevator up from his room on the third floor to the 18th to put them in the RecyleMania bins there.

“I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be doing it,” Novak said. “I know we’re in a competition with other schools, but it comes down to simply choosing the recycling bin over the trash bin.”

Stander is a freshman in Holland Hall, a residence building that Plummer said performs consistently well in the competition. Stander only makes a small trip down the hall to recycle her plastics and paper, but with the added initiative from RecycleMania, she’s been making a conscious effort to not throw away any recyclables.

“I saw the banner in the quad and posters all over towers, then I checked out the website and saw what a big deal it was around colleges.” Stander said, holding two newspapers she had just plucked from the Tower’s patio ground. “I’m not cool with letting my friends at Villanova and UConn beat us — won’t happen.”