Recyclemania at Elon University is now a competition. Though the university has participated in the national program each February for the past seven years, it has never before competed for rankings.
“Elon is really competing against itself from year to year, but the overall comparisons with every school entered in the competition is fun to see,” said David Worden, director of environmental services.
Recyclemania, an eight-week long contest promoting waste reduction on college campuses, began Feb. 3. The university is competing in individual categories for weighted cardboard, bottles and cans and mixed paper, as well as over-all weight volume, which combines the weight of all the categories. In order to prevent larger universities from having a population advantage, the competition calculates recyclables per capita so the ratio of students to recyclables is accounted for.
This year, 402 universities are contending for the top spot of the per capita category, and Elon is currently ranked 181. Of the 12 North Carolina universities participating, Elon is ranked seventh, but the margins of the per capita category are slim. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is ranked 76, but its recyclables-per-capita is only 3.72 compared to Elon’s 2.02. Duke University is ranked forty-fourth spot with a per-capita recyclable rate of 5.31.
Regardless of Elon’s current rank, Worden said the competition has always been about the Elon community and its growing emphasis on sustainability, not just winning.
“Elon got involved with the goal to improve participation and awareness toward recycling on campus,” he said. “Trends in recycling habits change over time and it’s not so much the weight volume that is important as much as it is continuing to recycle properly and divert recyclables from going to the landfill.”
Freshman Meredith Berk said Elon’s participation in Recyclemania places an emphasis on being a sustainable university.
Freshman Ciera Martinez agreed. She said she thinks Recyclemania is a way to encourage better sustainable practices, because many students don’t recycle as much as they could.
Although Worden emphasized the importance of campus participation and awareness, he also recognizes the significance of improvement. He said the university is attempting to outperform the previous year by weight volume.
If progress continues at its current rate, the goal may be achieved. The university has recycled more than 16,000 pounds since the contest began, and there are six weeks left. Last year, Elon finished the competition with nearly 60,000 pounds of recycled material.
But the university has some catching up to do if it plans to meet the per capita benchmarks set by previous years. Elon finished the competition with a recycling rate of 8.83 recyclables per capita in 2011, and 8.11 recyclables per capita in 2012. The final results of the competition will be announced April 12.