Raising awareness about recycling

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February 27, 2012

10:04 PM

The College of William and Mary has become known as a “green” institution, but for one 10-week period, some students become recycling maniacs.

Starting Feb. 5, the College began competing against colleges throughout the United States and Canada in Recylemania, a contest in which schools earn rankings based on the percentage of their waste they manage to recycle. The winning school receives a trophy and a banquet in its honor. The contest ends April 4.

“It’s all about awareness,” Lawanda Hutchinson, location manager at the Sadler Center, said. “The event is meant to encourage students and even faculty members to look at what materials they have that may be recycled or composted.”

The program began in 2001 as a competition between Ohio State University and Miami University to inspire enthusiasm in students to recycle. After the success of the first year, the schools began inviting other colleges to participate. In 2011, more than 630 schools participated, conserving 91 million pounds of materials. The program began at the College in 2007, and last year the school finished in first place in the state of Virginia and 17th in the entire contest.

Director of Operations Larry Smith,  who helps supervise the work of sustainability interns for William and Mary Dining Services, attributed this past success to the interns who work on the program.

“The sustainability interns have been great,” Smith said. “What has made us successful in the past is the way that the interns have worked to market the project around the campus. They’re available for anyone who may want to help out the program.”

Dining Services intern Michael Curcio ’15 added that environmental awareness on campus has also been a factor in the program’s success.

“Students at William and Mary are generally very environmentally conscious,” he said. “We have a lot of Wawa food, and people know about materials that can be recycled.”

Many different campus organizations are involved the program. Waste Management helps to collect and weigh the trash from campus, while TFC Recycling does the same for recyclables. Hutchinson assists in submitting the weights and percentages to Recyclemania for recording. William and Mary Facilities Management helps by locating all dumpsters and depositories for items.

“We’ve taken on the whole campus,” Hutchinson said. “At first it was slow, trying to locate all the trash and recyclables for each facility because they were in different locations. Facilities Management was important in helping us find all the recyclables we could get credit for. It was really a one team buy in.”

In recent years, the program has grown and now allows schools to compete by participating in a video contest and by counting electronic devices, such as old cell phones, printer cartridges and used batteries, among recycled items. In order to further reduce the level of waste at the College, the group has created a composting center near Sorority Court. The group at the College hopes to take advantage of these new opportunities.

“One of our interns will be going to [Earl Gregg Swem Library] and other locations this year in order to make sure that we can collect all the waste from the electronic devices,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve been getting some nice weights from these. We’ll also be doing a video for the contest’s website.”

The program’s success hinges on whether students at the College can recycle as much as possible. Student leaders encourage their fellow Tribe members to remain conscious of items they may be able to recycle. To boost student involvement, a recycling fair will be hosted at the College March 17.

“The easiest way for students to get involved is for them to make sure that when they have recyclable materials such as glass bottles, they put them in a proper recycle bin,” Curcio said. “This is the easiest way for students to get active in the program, and we will be advertising as best we can to get the word out.”

Despite success in the past, the leaders in the program hope to improve in Recyclemania 2012.

“I want to see us move up more in the national rankings,” Hutchinson said. “When students find out about what we do, they’ll want to get involved and make this happen.”

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  • Stephen D'Alessio