UNL among 534 campuses vying for Recyclemania glory

UNL is participating in "Recyclemania," a national recycling contest between 534 universities.
UNL is participating in "Recyclemania," a national recycling contest between 534 universities.

Instead of chucking yesterday’s memo or soda bottle into the trash, consider recycling them. You could help UNL win the national Recyclemania contest.

UNL is participating in this friendly competition in which 534 campuses, including nine Big Ten campuses, work to reduce waste, increase recycling and raise awareness of conservation behaviors. The eight-week contest runs Feb. 5 to March 31. This is the third year UNL has participated.

The prize?

“Bragging rights,” said Prabhakar “Prabs” Shrestha, one of UNL’s recycling coordinators. “There is no ‘green cup’ but we can say we are one of the greenest schools in the U.S. and Canada and that’s a big recruiting tool for us to say ‘we are a recycling campus.’”

The overall goal is to increase campus awareness of UNL’s recycling opportunities and to build the habit of recycling, Shrestha said.

Jeff Henson, also a recycling coordinator, agreed.

“We are really focusing on encouraging the behavior and trying to make it a more conscious effort to get the right materials into the right containers,” Henson said.

During the contest, UNL will share weekly collection numbers with Recyclemania.

UNL is hoping to win in all five recycling categories: Per Capita Classic (total recyclables per capita), Waste Minimization (total diversion per capita), Grand Champion (percentage recycled), Gorilla Prize (highest volume of recyclables collected) and Target Materials (highest volume of paper, cardboard, cans collected).

“It would be cool to increase our recycling rate,” Henson said. While 2011 figures are not fully tabulated, Henson said UNL has improved its annual recycling rate by about 9 percent each of the last three years and he thinks the 2011 figures will be “significantly” higher.

Recycling is a voluntary effort at UNL, relying on faculty, staff, administrators and students to seek out recycling containers rather than having janitorial or housekeeping staff collect materials. Henson, Shrestha and their teams collect materials from containers near loading docks. They also will supply containers to offices. Recycling services are coordinated through UNL Landscape Services, which handles UNL’s waste management.

“We have made lots of efforts to get the containers out,” Shrestha said. “Now we need to build the use of them and the contest is a good platform for that.”

Recycling is as easy as taking recyclables to the nearest bin,” Henson said. “If you do not have bins in your office talk to your Building Maintenance Reporter or make a request to the Recycling office at recycling@unl.edu. For others who would like to do more, like cleaning their offices, totes can be provided and collected when done”.

Landscape Services is working with Sustain UNL (an environmental club) and Association of Students of the University of Nebraska (student government) to promote Recyclemania among faculty, staff and students.

“ASUN recognizes the importance of a sustainable campus,” said Matan Gill, ASUN senator and Sustainability Committee chair. “ASUN is committed to reducing the impact of UNL on its environment, and to encourage environmental stewardship and education among the students and staff of the university. Recyclemania is a key part of environmental education and awareness.”

The president of Sustain UNL, Neil Tabor, said, “Recyclemania is a showcase of the passion UNL has for its environment. This event is about everyone doing their part to ensure that we decrease the waste that goes into the landfill and build on this mentality into the future. If students, faculty, staff, and Lincoln community members all pitch in we can see extraordinary results."

Shrestha said it will take an all-university effort to win the contest. “Your action will make UNL win,” he said. “When a student throws away something recyclable like a plastic bottle, it affects our school’s ranking. With this being a competition, getting our competitive spirit going throughout the eight-week period would increase recycling significantly.”

For more information, go to http://recycling.unl.edu or contact Henson or Shrestha at 402-472-9139.

- Kim Hachiya, University Communications