First RecycleMania effort produces outstanding results

For a first-time effort, Western Carolina University’s participation in RecycleMania, an annual national collegiate recycling competition, had winning results.

Following an eight-week tournament this spring between colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada to promote waste reduction activities on their campuses, WCU can boast of a first-place result in recycling efforts among similar size institutions and the best outcome in paper and cardboard recycling of all North Carolina schools.

A lot went into the RecycleMania success and the university’s commitment to recycling, said Jeff White, WCU’s recycling coordinator. An important component is WCU’s housekeeping and grounds departments, which deserve much credit for collecting recyclable waste, he said.

But equally important are the other aspects that come from entering into such competition. “The data captured during the competition provides a valuable measurement and benchmarking tool,” White said. “We have to keep in mind the greenhouse gas reduction equivalency results are due to our collective efforts and demonstrate our commitment to helping build a more sustainable world. RecycleMania generates enthusiasm and support for campus recycling programs, and next year we hope to start a friendly competition between residence halls.”

Several new initiatives were implemented this semester, including distribution of about 2,000 recycling totes to all freshman and first-year transfer students. Students use the totes in their rooms to collect recyclables, and then empty them in a larger bin in a common area. The totes were purchased by WCU’s Sustainable Energy Initiative, a committee comprised of students, faculty and staff advisers charged with allocating money towards the implementation of renewable energy, energy efficiency improvements, research and internships on campus. The money comes from a $5 per student, per semester fee.

Complete results can be found at http://recyclemania.org, including a breakout that shows how schools performed by athletic conference, institution size, state and other groupings.

WCU’s recycling program was instituted in 1988, and White was hired as the first recycling coordinator in September 2016. For more information on recycling, energy conservation and sustainability at WCU, contact the Office of Sustainability and Energy Management at 828-227-7442.