UK joins in national recycling competition

By Alle Rorie

UK is looking for another SEC championship in a competition it has never won before.

Recyclemania 2008, a 10-week recycling competition that began Sunday, is geared to increase campus awareness of recycling and waste minimization at 400 colleges and universities across the nation.

“Our number one goal this year is to defeat the six other SEC schools,” said Shane Tedder, sustainability coordinator for UK’s Office of Residence Life. ”We will be the SEC recycling champs this year.”

UK’s Office of Residence Life will collect recyclables each week from 22 residence halls, six Greek houses, four dining facilities, and the graduate and family apartments. Recyclables collected by UK’s Physical Plant Division from classrooms and office buildings will also be measured for the competition — something that hasn’t happened the previous two years that UK competed.

“It was just a student competition before,” said Tom Gregory, program coordinator of the Physical Plant Division. “Everything that happened pertained only to students, but now faculty and staff are involved. It’s the next step up in the contest. It is a bigger level in the contest.”

Winners are determined in four main categories: largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest amount of total recyclables, the least amount of trash per capita and the highest overall recycling rate.

“Recycling is good for the economy and the environment, and it provides scores of jobs for Kentucky,” Tedder said. “More than half of the trash that UK sends to the landfill could have been recycled.”

Residence Life is promoting the competition by offering a pizza party to the residence hall that recycles the most paper per person. Other than that and bragging rights, a trophy made from “junk” is the grand prize, Tedder said.

“We have signs on our bathroom doors for it,” said Kristen Weiss, a finance freshman and resident of Blanding IV. “It’s a great idea, and I know a bunch of people in our dorm are doing it.”

Recyclemania started in 2001 as a competition between Miami University of Ohio and Ohio University. Since then, the number of participants and the amount of recycled material has multiplied, and UK joined the effort in the spring of 2006. Last year, 201 universities in the competition produced more than 41.3 million pounds of recycled material, according to the Recyclemania Web site.

“Recycling one aluminum can save enough electricity to power a TV for three hours,” Tedder said. “About 20 plastic bottles can be used to make one polar fleece jacket or shirt. Recycling one ton of paper saves 17 mature trees.”

UK recycles many products, including plastics, aluminum cans, composted food, leaves and ink cartridges. From 2005 to 2006, UK recycled 31.9 percent of its waste. The Physical Plant Division collected over 1.6 million pounds of paper, 672,875 pounds of cardboard, 7,914 pounds of plastic and 82,904 pounds of scrap electronics, according to the physical plant division’s Web site.

“There is no such place as ‘away,’ ” Tedder said. “When you throw something ‘away,’ you are really just sending it to a landfill in Central Kentucky.”