Pitt ‘close’ to reaching RecycleMania goal

By Olivia Garber

Pitt ended its waste-reduction competition last week and thinks it might have come close to… Pitt ended its waste-reduction competition last week and thinks it might have come close to meeting its goal of recycling 15 pounds of material per person.

The University has yet to configure its final data from the 10-week RecycleMania competition, which ended Friday, but it has recycled an average of 1.47 pounds of material per student, staff and faculty member on campus since RecycleMania began Jan. 17, bringing the projected total to 13.24 pounds per person.

Pitt students and faculty members placed additional recycling containers across campus for the RecycleMania competition, in which 607 schools across the nation competed to see who could help the environment the most. Of those schools, 382 chose to formally compete against each other in five categories: Grand Champion, Per Capita, Gorilla Prize, Targeted Material and Waste Minimization. The first four focus on the amount of material recycled, but Waste Minimization focuses on reducing and reusing. The winner of the category will have produced the least amount of municipal waste.

The non-competing chose to participate simply to conserve.

Alec Cooley, program manager for RecycleMania, which is sponsored by the national College and University Recycling Council, said that it takes multiple sources to reduce impact on the environment. Recycling is something that’s easy and accessible to many people, but RecycleMania attempts to encourage reduction as well, hence the waste minimization category, he said.

Sony Rane, a senior environmental studies and business dual major at Pitt, worked with Facilities Management to coordinate RecycleMania on campus. Facilities Management is responsible for most of the recycling done on Pitt’s campus.

Rane worked with the housing crew to set up the white cardboard boxes around campus. Together, they placed more than 100 boxes in dorms, Rane said.

The boxes, made of recyclable material, are white to make them more visible, Rane said. Pitt also has brown plastic containers for recycling, but more receptacles were needed to accommodate RecycleMania.

Both containers counted toward the RecycleMania statistics.

RecycleMania’s website will post the final results April 16, but until then, Free the Planet co-president Seth Bush estimates that Pitt will be pretty close to the goal of 15 pounds per capita. Free the Planet is a student organization that focuses on awareness about important environmental issues.

Rane said this year’s participation is not really comparable to last year’s because Pitt is actually competing this year.

Last year, Pitt was in the Benchmark Division and was not competing for any prizes. Last year’s results were also calculated per student, instead of per capita, though the goal was equivalent: 15 pounds per student. With a total of 21.69 pounds per student, Pitt well exceeded its goal.

Laura Zullo, senior manager of capital and special projects with the department of Facilities Management, said Facilities Management was responsible for collecting and measuring the material as well as reporting the results to RecycleMania.

While some statistics were estimates based on the size of containers and the number of times the containers were emptied, certain materials like paper were actually measured, Zullo said.

Facilities Management left the publicity of the event to Free the Planet, Zullo said.

Bush said Free the Planet began promoting RecycleMania in early September. The group began by tabling at various locations — including wrestling games — but looked for other ways when tabling proved somewhat unsuccessful.

“Tabling is not as effective as we’d like on Pitt’s campus. People put on the horse blinders and just go right through it,” Bush said.

Free the Planet hosted a kick-off fair that about 170 people attended, Bush said.

The publicity worked, and at the five-week marker, Pitt was ranked first in the Big East in the Gorilla Prize and the paper and cardboard Targeted Material divisions. The Gorilla Prize division measures the gross amount of recyclable material, and the paper and cardboard divisions target the recycled amount of the specific material. The final rankings will be posted on the RecycleMania website after every school has turned in its last week of statistics.

Despite Pitt’s rankings, Rane said that regardless of how much publicity RecycleMania receives, it’s impossible to reach out to every student. The lack of a central mode of communication prevents everyone from knowing about RecycleMania, she said.

Rane, along with several members of Free the Planet, went through a trash can after a Free the Planet meeting last week. Together they sorted the garbage and took out recyclable material. A RecycleMania container was just a few feet away, she said.

Cooley said that finding something that resonated with students is important in encouraging them to recycle. He said that forming RecycleMania into a competition was a way to communicate the importance of recycling in a way that would encourage student participation.

“Some people respond when you talk about saving the earth,” Cooley said. “For others, that’s not relevant.”