Josh Nehs –

RecycleMania has started up once again. Throughout the United States and Canada, various universities compete to see who can reduce the most waste throughout their campus.

For eight weeks, universities report their recycling and trash collection totals and then compared them to the other participating schools.

RecycleMania looks to motivate students to recycle. By generating interest through competition, students can educate themselves on creating a sustainable environment.

RecycleMania has been a method used gauge University of Wisconsin-Stout’s recycling efforts. With a compost and recycling rate of almost 50 percent, UW-Stout is the top school in the UW System of those that compete. Throughout the campus, UW-Stout is trying to reduce its carbon footprint.

There is organic food available to students, a shuttle bus program and a new solar array at the Merle M. Price Commons. UW-Stout offers sustainability training at student orientations and is involved in events such as Biggest Reducer Energy Competition, We Turn Lights Off Here, I Love Tap Water, and of course, RecycleMania.

To get a better insight into RecycleMania and other UW-Stout programs Stoutonia reached out to Sarah Rykal, the sustainability manager on campus and asked some questions regarding RecycleMania and student involvement in recycling.

How do you feel about programs such as RecycleMania as a way to inspire students to be more active in participating in green activities?

“Programs like RecycleMania are really helpful in motivating our campus to be more sustainable. The RecycleMania tournament creates a sense of competition among campuses which helps to instill campus pride for our students, faculty and staff. We work together to reduce waste and be more sustainable.”

In your experience, have programs like this been successful in educating students on the importance of protecting the earth?

“RecycleMania is definitely one of several pieces of the waste reduction education pie. During the eight weeks of the tournament, we’re working really hard to encourage students, faculty and staff to recycle and compost – or better yet, reduce and reuse, and our consistent messaging reminds people to reduce their waste.

But we also offer a really robust waste reduction program with our campus-wide compost and recycling receptacles, making it easy for people to divert their waste from the landfill. University Dining Services offers compostable to-go containers and utensils, so our campus can compost not only their food waste, but also their food containers. And we have signage at all receptacles to help people know what can be composted and recycled.  We try to make waste reduction easy and intuitive for everyone.”

What are UW-Stout’s results for past RecycleMania competitions that we participated in? Do you feel good about our placement or do you feel it is a sign that there is still room for improvement?

“In 2012, before we implemented the campus-wide composting and recycling bins, we placed 207 out of 274 universities and last in the UW System. In 2014, after the compost and recycling bins were implemented and we educated the campus on waste reduction, we placed 24 of 256 universities and number one in the UW System. We’ve remained number one in the UW since that time.”

“While this is definitely great progress, we still have a lot of room for improvement. During the 2017-2018 school year, we sent over 650,000 pounds of trash to the landfill. When you consider all the items we can compost and recycle, we could definitely have far less trash as a campus.”

“In RecycleMania so far this year, we’re in second place to UW-Oshkosh. Currently, they are number 13 and we’re at number 16, so we need to improve over the next four weeks or we risk losing our UW System title for the first time in five years.”

Is Stout looking for more events like this to participate in and are there any upcoming to look forward to?

“We will have a number of events during Earth Week to educate the campus on sustainability. We’re in the process of planning those right now and the Residence Hall Association usually holds an energy reduction competition between the residence halls during the spring semester.”

UW-Stout makes an effort to reduce waste and educate its students through programs like RecycleMania and how they can best participate in reducing waste on campus. In order to hold the title of the university in the UW System with the lowest amount of waste, students must recycle as much as they can for RecycleMania. There will be future events during Earth Week.