Recyclemania Rocks Residence Halls, Goes Campus-Wide in 2011

Return to Issue of April 19, 2010 


Competition is nothing new for Kent State University residence hall residents. In past years, the students in residence halls competed against each other to learn a lesson about reducing their carbon footprints. This year, instead of competing against each other, residence halls teamed up to compete nationally in the benchmark division as part of Recyclemania.

“Residents in the dorms are always really active when we do sustainability things,” says Brendan Desetti, president of Kent Interhall Council.

Recyclemania is a 10-week program in which universities compete against each other on a national level. Each week’s reports and rankings show how schools’ results fluctuate against other schools in five different competition categories and two divisions.

The categories include: Grand Champion (for overall results), the Targeted Materials (including paper, glass, etc.) and the Waste Minimization (for producing the least amount of solid waste.)

The two divisions include the competition division for the official competition and the benchmark division for schools to report their results and determine their standings in relation to other schools.

Kent State University at Kent and Kent State University at Stark are both competing in the benchmark division this year in preparation for next year’s campus-wide involvement in Recyclemania.

“Sometimes we collect donations of food, or help by recycling electronics, and the residence hall students always compete really well. The residence halls also are mindful of conservation of water and electricity,” Desetti says. “The students love saving the earth.“

“The previous internal competition was a month long and Recyclemania is 10 weeks,” says Melanie Knowles, Kent State University’s sustainability manager. “Competing longer helps people get more into the habit of recycling and the more likely they are to keep those habits.”

Knowles said the biggest difference in the competition isn’t just comparing numbers nationally but also how strict the guidelines are for measuring what is being recycled.

“Recyclemania has to make sure everyone is on a level playing field,” Knowles says. “So contamination (any trash mixed in with the recyclables) can add weight. We have to ensure that weight only includes recyclables.”

That’s where Portage County Recycling comes in. Independent of Kent State, the recycling facility sorts and weighs all of the mixed recyclables (plastic, glass, aluminum and paper) from Kent State. Those numbers are then reported to Knowles for the competition.

“Another hurdle was measuring cardboard,” Knowles adds.

Cardboard was measured with a mathematical equation that converts the space it takes in a container into a weight.

“But sometimes, the cardboard isn’t broken down,” Knowles explains. “So it artificially inflates the volume, making it seem like more cardboard was recycled in weight than actually was.”

The equation was modified to account for inaccuracies in that measurement, but Knowles said next year’s cardboard numbers will actually be weighed, eliminating any error.

Knowles is optimistic about next year’s competition as it goes campus-wide.

“We’ve got a team of us, including Residence Services, Campus Environment and Operations, and the Sustainability Task Force Recycling Subcommittee, that have been working on recycling on campus,” Knowles said. “We realize there are a lot of things that can be done to improve recycling on campus, whether it’s improving education, signage or adding more recycling bins and we’re always open to suggestions.”

By Robert Checkal

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