By Sam Alcorn
LEWISBURG, Pa. – In 2008, Bucknell University recycled nearly 380 tons of waste – the most in any year this decade.
That's up nearly 60 tons from 2007, resulting in a significant reduction in the amount spent on transporting waste – like news- and office paper, cardboard, bimetal and aluminum cans, plastics and glass – to area landfills and tipping fees that have risen to nearly $54 a ton.
The experience helped the Bucknell green team to make significant headway in this year's RecycleMania, the annual competition that promotes waste reduction on college and university campuses across the United States and Canada.
Fourth straight year
It was the fourth straight year that Bucknell increased the percentage of recycling against the amount of waste that was generated, said Merritt Pedrick, associate director for operations, who tracks Bucknell's year-round recycling efforts.
This year, over the 10 weeks in which the competition was held, Bucknell recycled 19.12 percent of its waste, up from 15.10 percent in 2006, 17.08 percent in 2007 and 17.71 percent in 2008.
"Bucknell has continued to make progress, but we have a way to go," said Pedrick. California State University-San Marcos, the grand champion winner, for instance, recycled more than 78 percent of the waste it generated.
69.4 million pounds
Bucknell, along with 510 colleges and universities representing 4.7 million students and 1.1 million faculty and staff collectively recycled or composted 69.4 million pounds of material, while raising awareness about resource conservation with a new generation of students.
The national effort prevented the release of 88,739 metric tons of carbon dioxide, a reduction in greenhouse gases that is equivalent to the annual emissions from 16,187 passenger cars, electricity use of 12,258 homes or burning of 462 railcars' worth of coal.
Bucknell finished 53rd in the per capita recycling category with 19.96 pounds of material recycled or composted in 2009.
Exceeds state average
"It's not as good as our best year (23.02 pounds a person in 2007), but it exceeds the state average and comfortably ranks us in the top half of the country with 253 schools competing in the per capita category," said Pedrick.
Bucknell, he added, led Dickinson College, last year's leader in Pennsylvania, for the first nine weeks of the competition. Dickinson finished 44th overall with 21.72 pounds recycled per person.
Launched in 2001 as a friendly challenge between Ohio University and Miami University to increase recycling on their campuses, the contest has expanded rapidly in eight years to 510 schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. This year's 10-week contest ran from Jan. 18 to March 28.
Variety of categories
Campuses compete in a variety of categories to see which institution can collect the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest amount of total recyclables, the least amount of trash per capita, or have the highest recycling rate.
"Clearly we see results that show RecycleMania spurs environmental awareness," said Ed Skernolis, executive director of National Recycling Coalition. "The competition frames resource conservation in a way that resonates — and inspires — students to increase their recycling practices on and off campus."
"RecycleMania helps students rethink their waste," said Scott Vitters, Director of Sustainable Packaging for The Coca-Cola Co. "Through the course of the competition, they learn to recognize that bottles, cans, cardboard and paper are valuable recyclable materials."
Top schools in each category earn bragging rights, while the winners of each are recognized with an award made of recycled glass.
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