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College climbs RecycleMania charts

William & Mary finished 19th out of 265 schools nationally in the 2012 RecycleMania competition, sponsored by Alcoa, Waste Management, SCA Tissue, Coca-Cola Recycling, Keep America Beautiful, American Forest and Paper Association and Hewlett-Packard (HP). The College also finished first among Virginia colleges and universities for the second consecutive year.

RecycleMania is a 10-week competition that helps promote recycling on college campuses. Colleges measure all food and paper waste, trash and compost and report back how much waste is being recycled versus going to the landfill.

“RecycleMania is a great competition that gives colleges a fresh-eyes perspective on how much we are recycling,” stated Lawanda Hutchison, Service Manager for Sadler Center Dining and a member of W&M Dining’s sustainability team. “I am so excited to see how we have evolved into one of the top 20 accounts in higher education and our impact in reducing our environmental footprint.”

The W&M Dining sustainability team, comprised of five student interns and dining management staff, has worked to spread awareness and engagement for sustainable initiatives on campus, including the importance of recycling and this competition.

“Our W&M interns have provided the campus and Dining Services with a high standard of excellence in all facets of sustainability, which raises the bar to met by others,” said Larry Smith, Dining Director of Operations and Sustainability Coordinator.

RecycleMania is a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. Colleges across the United States and Canada report the amount of recycling and trash collected each week and are in turn ranked in various categories based on who recycles the most on a per capita basis, as well as which schools have the best recycling rate as a percentage of total waste and which schools generate the least amount of combined trash and recycling.

RecycleMania began in January 2001 as a challenge between Ohio University and Miami (Ohio) University, when the two recycling coordinators at the schools were looking for a way to motivate their student bodies to recycle more. The two schools decided to take advantage of the existing sports rivalry and challenged each other to see who could recycle the most. The first year Miami University came away with the win, collecting 41.2 lbs/person but Ohio wasn’t far behind recycling 32.6 lbs/person.

The next year colleagues at other universities were invited to join the competition and RecycleMania has been on a roll ever since. Beginning in 2004, RecycleMania partnered with the U.S. EPA WasteWise program to develop a website and provide administrative support for the program.

Participation in the tournament competition continued to grow with 93 schools in 2006, 210 in 2007 and 400 in 2008. The most recent 2011 competition included 630 colleges representing 49 states and four Canadian provinces. More than 7.5 million students and staff participated, collectively recycling 91 million pounds of recyclables and organic materials. This activity helped to prevent the release of 127,553 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E), equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 25,000 passenger cars, or the electricity use of more than 15,500 homes.