During every other time of year, a giant pile of trash in the middle of University Avenue might seem a bit out of place, but for the next 10 weeks, it might actually be something to get excited about.
Feb. 6 marks the official start of Recyclemania, a 10-week competition between 385 colleges thatâ€™s intended to raise awareness about just how much material students waste each year and give them the chance to pit their recycling prowess against that of their collegiate rivals.
â€œThe objective is to see who can recycle the most and landfill the least,â€ said Facilities Management Program Director Sheela Backen.
â€œLast year, we recycled 53 percent and landfilled 46.9 percent of the waste on campus,â€ Backen said in a press release. â€œDuring RecycleMania, we recycled 52.51 percent of campus waste.â€
Schools are ranked according to who collects the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest amount of total recyclables, the least amount of trash per capita and who has the highest recycling rate.
â€œThe goal is to get people to recycle everything that they can,â€ Backen said.
The winning college or university receives the prestigious Recyclemania trophy, a unique keepsake made of miscellaneous items that were thrown away.
California State University-San Marcos has taken the trophy for the past three years, and CSU has consistently placed in the top 5 percent nationally, last year placing 17th.
But CSU has also gained something invaluable: bragging rights.
â€œWe always beat CU; they have never come close to beating us,â€ Backen said.
Identifying what can be recycled is the key to winning. According to Backen, most things can be recycled so the real challenge is not as much to search for recyclable items as to get people to change their habits.
And according to the data, the CSU community is on its way to lessening its environmental impact.
As reported by an audit collected by Housing and Dining Services, last year 37 percent of what was thrown away could have been recycled, as compared to 41 percent the year before.
The two materials that were recycled the least were paper products and plastic bottles.
To prepare for the competition, the Live Green Team, a team of 50 faculty, staff and students who promote green initiatives, has been placing stickers on campus recycling bins to increase recycling rates and to make recycling easier for the student population.
This labeling comes in light of a recent survey offered by the Live Green Team that revealed that many students were confused about the labeling on the single-stream recycling bins, particularly international students.
The Live Green Team hopes this new, more obvious labeling system will boost CSUâ€™s recycling numbers when another audit is conducted on March 2.
Between now and then, weekly numbers will also be collected so that CSU can compare itself to its rival schools.
â€œWe would love to win Recyclemania, but itâ€™s going to be a big challenge for us because we are such a large university. If we were to finish in the top 10 we would be thrilled,â€ Tonie Miyamoto, the communications director for Housing and Dining services and the chairwoman of the Live Green Team.
In addition to competing nationally, CSUâ€™s residence halls and campus apartments will also be competing amongst themselves to see who will be the ultimate recycling champion.
Staff writer Jennifer Saylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.