U ranks 84th in recycling competition

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

Campus sustainability leaders said the U could have done better in this year’s Recyclemania competition of colleges and universities nationwide, but they said the U did respectably in its premier year of organized recycling.

Out of 400 universities, the U placed 84th for recycling paper and 139th for cardboard.

“In the first year, overall we did well,” said Taylor Couvreur, director of the Associated Students of the University of Utah Recycling and Sustainability Board. “There were a lot of universities competing, but our competitors smashed us.”

Brigham Young University and Utah State University beat the U in the semester-long competitions for recycled paper and cardboard. BYU placed 46th for paper and 56th for cardboard, and USU placed 75th for paper and 112th for cardboard.

Both schools have more established recycling programs and collect more items, said Joshua James, recycling coordinator for plant operations at the U. He said BYU is a more campus-oriented university, and it’s harder to recycle on a commuter campus like the U.

The U collected an average of 5.39 lbs. of paper per person on campus and 1.28 lbs. of cardboard per person.

Director of Plant Operations Cory Higgins said students and faculty need to change their habits for the U to place higher in the competition.

“We need to change behaviors, which takes time,” Higgins said.

Couvreur said the board didn’t do enough to market the competition to students, and there was no big kickoff event at the beginning of the Spring Semester. Next year, the board will start to raise awareness for Recyclemania early in the fall.

Jessica Scharf, who is now an intern in the U Office of Sustainability and will take over Couvreur’s position in ASUU, said the board is considering holding events to get students excited about the competition.

Ideas include having an art installation contest made of recycled materials and holding a dance in which people wear costumes made of recycled materials.

Lindsay Clark, associate director of the board and a U Office of Sustainability fellow, said they could have more educated students in the Residence Halls, which have a lot of contamination issues, such as putting items such as shoes in the bins.

Higgins said parts of campus, including housing, don’t correctly separate the paper for recycling.

Higgins said the U’s paper and cardboard programs are solid, but over time they will get better at knowing where to place bins for mixed paper and office pack assortments.

The U does not have a cardboard compactor, but the recycling building located near the high-temperature plant is now in use and the compactor should be on campus soon. Without the compactor, Higgins said it has been hard to keep up with cardboard recycling.

To increase the amount of recycled items on campus, James said the U is going to also count recycling in the hospital area of campus.

In the future, the U will also look at recycling items such as aluminum, glass and plastic, but Higgins said the U doesn’t have the money to start those programs right now and they wouldn’t bring in any revenue.

“We know that we can do better than we’re doing, but middle of the pack to upper-middle is commendable,” Higgins said.

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