MU’s recycling ranked 26th in national competition

MU jumped over 100 places from last year’s RecycleMania results.

MU returned to the annual RecycleMania competition this year, and proved to more than 400 of the competing institutions across the U.S. and Canada that its recycling practices can improve in incredible ways.

The competition’s Grand Champion category measures the amount of recycled materials out of the total waste generated in a university.

MU jumped from recycling approximately 24 percent of its total waste in 2013 to a little over 50 percent in 2014, propelling the university from 173rd to 26th place in the category.

For Alicia LaVaute, who helped coordinate MU’s 8-week recycling campaign for the Sustainability Office, the improved results were a delightful surprise.

“I clicked on (the link) and expected to scroll really far down the list, since we were 173rd place last year,” LaVaute said. “But my finger didn’t even need to roll on the mouse for me to see that we were in the 26th place, and I was overjoyed. I almost shed a happy tear.”

MU’s strides did not end there, however.

According to the RecycleMania scoreboard, MU saw an increase in the total amount of waste recycled, from 581,477 pounds to 620,514 pounds, or from 20th to 17th place.

The biggest goal the Sustainability Office had for this year, LaVaute said, was to increase MU’s paper recycling. The average amount of paper recycled per person on campus increased from 6.8 pounds to 8.78 pounds, launching MU from 34th to 18th place.

LaVaute said better reaching out to various faculty and staff members on campus and taking advantage of the moves prompted by Renew Mizzou played a big role in recycling more paper.

“There are over 200 building coordinators who played a big role in making sure every building did their recycling,” she said. “And during that move, people in (the offices) took the opportunity to clean out their filing cabinets.”

Senior Chelsea Kaplan, who worked on the office’s outreach effort, said better promoting the competition this year has helped boost participation from students.

“I don’t think we promoted (RecycleMania) as well as we could have last year,” she said. “The improved outreach definitely made more students more conscious of their trash, and reminded them that if they have a bottle of water, recycle it instead of throwing it away.”

Even after the excitement of RecycleMania ends, however, the competition may have some long-lasting benefits for the participating institutions.

Kaplan, for example, believes the competition is a good way to showcase the effectiveness of MU’s recycling programs compared to peer universities.

“Missouri as a state is not very sustainable and (its) recycling numbers are a lot lower than the rest of the country,” she said. “But I think the university is doing a good job. For (MU) to be so high up shows what kind of culture we are breeding here.”

Competing in RecycleMania, Kaplan said, may help promote recycling and sustainable lifestyles to students.

“During the month of RecycleMania, there is a lot of top-of-the-mind awareness and students way to recycle more and make Mizzou look good,” she said. “Then those habits carry on throughout the rest of the year and get ingrained in people’s minds.”

Sustain Mizzou’s new president, Jackson Hambrick, said he had not heard of the competitions in the past, and would like to consider collaborating with the Sustainability Office during future RecyleManias.

“I think (RecycleMania) helps promote MU’s sustainability efforts, but they also have to focus on continuing that after the event,” Hambrick said. “We are talking about working with them next year, and we will continue to discuss it over the summer.”

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