COLUMBIA - From now until March 28, tossing your soda can into the recycling bin could make MU a national champion.
It's part of RecycleMania, a 10-week competition that pits MU against 333 other colleges and universities to see who can recycle the most. This will be MU’s sixth year participating.
“(RecycleMania) is a friendly competition to encourage schools to recycle,” said Steve Burdic, Solid Waste and Recycling Coordinator for the university. “But it is also a great opportunity to talk about our recycling in general.”
Through this friendly competition, colleges and universities are encouraged to get out and promote their on-campus recycling programs. MU is represented by a partnership of Campus Facilities and the student environmental group Sustain Mizzou.
MU has contracts with both the city of Columbia as well as Civic Recycling, a private recycling company, to collect all the recyclables on campus.
Civic Recycling is responsible for picking up paper and cardboard on campus, as well as indoor beverage recycling containers. The city is responsible for sidewalk recycling and drop-off containers.
Roughly once a week, both companies collect the accumulated recycling on campus and process it. To provide RecycleMania with accurate results, all the recycled material is weighed before being processed.
The Material Recovery Center in Columbia will report the amount recycled from campus to Layli Terrill, the city's waste minimization supervisor, who will then report it to Burdic.
Burdic’s job is then to report to RecycleMania.
"I think (RecyleMania is) a great program,” Terrill said. “It serves as a reminder to students that there is a recycling program on campus.”
There are a number of categories in which schools can compete. This year, MU will report numbers for the Grand Champion Prize, which measures the weekly recycling rate. The school will also compete in the Per Capita Classic and Waste Minimization, both measured in pounds per person.
The big competition for MU is the Gorilla Competition, which measures sheer pounds recycled. Larger schools like MU have an edge in the contest. Smaller schools have a slight advantage in categories like the Per Capita Classic because of their smaller student populations.
In the Targeted Materials division, which measures specific materials collected, MU will report on its collection of paper, corrugated cardboard, bottles and cans, and “food service organics,” which are composted from Rollins Dining Hall. In the category of cardboard recycling, MU finished in 11th place last year. It was the university's highest finish in the competition.
Although MU fell shorter than organizers would have liked, new steps are being taken to help boost MU’s score in this year’s competition. As one of the primary promoters of RecycleMania, Sustain Mizzou is getting more involved this year.
“I’m hoping we can do a much more targeted ad campaign in the dorms” to get more students involved, said Patrick Margherio, president of Sustain Mizzou. “That’s really where the potential is to change attitudes about recycling."
Mike Madden, the RecycleMania project leader for Sustain Mizzou, will be posting fliers in many of the residence halls with the help of some Sustain Mizzou volunteers. He said he also hopes to be able to speak to the Missouri Students Association to encourage students to spread the word.
“This year you’re going to see an improvement,” Madden said. “Next year, we’re going for the gold.”
For example, he hopes to begin promoting the competition before it starts and wants to bring Tiger Tailgate, the successful recycling program used during home football games, to the basketball games. Last year’s Tiger Tailgate pulled in 19.2 tons of recyclables. It didn't coincide with the RecycleMania competition.
MU isn’t the only local school in the competition. Stephens College and Truman State University are both competing. Last year, Stephens finished first in the Targeted Division for paper. Truman State finished fifth for corrugated cardboard.
Last year, 58.6 million pounds were recycled in the RecycleMania competition. By comparison, last year the city of Columbia recycled almost 18 million pounds of material.
To track MU’s progress, go to recyclemania.org and click on the "participating schools" tab.