The University of Tennessee is trying to cut back the amount of waste it produces and is finding new ways to do so.
This month, UT is participating in its 9th annual RecycleMania competition, an eight-week tournament (Feb. 3- March 9), and will be competing against more than 400 colleges and universities to promote waste reduction and smarter choices about consumption.
Jay Price, recycling coordinator at UT, said there is an estimated average of nine tons of recyclable waste created per game in and around Neyland Stadium on a football Saturday. That’s 18,000 pounds of cups, cans, cardboard and more.
“Just to give you an idea, it takes 34 aluminum cans to make a pound,” Price said.
RecycleMania rates schools on several different categories including waste minimization, food service organics and gorilla, which is total mass of waste.
In past years the results have been decent, but the school is now taking a more active approach. Price and Outreach Coordinator Bea Ross are spearheading the project for the university. They are implementing smaller competitions within the overall competition to promote student involvement.
“We’re really pushing active student participation this year. We haven’t had the greatest results in past years,” Ross said.
This year, residence halls and student organizations are competing with each other to reduce total waste for a chance to earn cash and other prizes. The groups will report their waste reduction efforts to a website that tracks them in real-time and connects the results to social media sites. The efforts of these groups will factor into the larger RecycleMania competition.
Organizations, like Project VEGGIE, can create events and earn points for the competition.
“While VEGGIE recycles at all events, we will be hosting a zero waste event in the coming weeks to promote the 5 R’s and to learn about the waste production that club activities produce,” said Candice Lawton, vice president of Project VEGGIE.
The 5 R’s indicate Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair and Refuse when it comes to waste consumption and management.
Gameday: Basketball is another event of the RecycleMania competition. The March 1 men’s game against Vanderbilt will be a waste-free game, which means nearly all the waste from the game will be recycled or composted and the school’s effort will be compared to other schools.
“Some categories we do pretty well in, some not so well. Waste minimization is our worst category, which is what we’re focusing on this year,” Price said.
Every student on campus is inherently involved in the competition, yet most are presumably unaware.
“Admittedly, as a college student I don’t give as much thought as I should to issues like recycling or sustainability,” Kyle Jeffries, a social work major, said.
According to the RecycleMania website, “well over half of campuses surveyed in any given year report a noticeable increase in recycling that is attributable to the school’s participation.”
Price and Ross are hoping that the increases are even more noticeable this year.
Edited by Nichole Stevens