Butler University students have a chance to prove they are Earth conscious during RecycleMania, which began Feb. 2 and will continue through Mar. 29.
RecycleMania is a friendly competition for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities, according to the RecycleMania Facebook page.
During RecycleMania, colleges around the United States and Canada report amounts of recycling and trash collected each week. The schools are ranked in various categories based on who recycles the most per capita. Schools compete to determine who has the best recycling rate.
Butler has been participating in the event since 2008 and ECO, the Environmental Concerns Organization which promotes environmentally friendly and earth conscious efforts, oversees the event on campus.
With 479 schools competing in RecycleMania, which officially began in 2001, Butler started participating for a number of reasons.
Katie Breden, president of ECO, said she does not think Butler students recycle enough.
A group on campus probably noticed Butler could use the boost to start recycling and decided to bring RecycleMania to Butler, Breden said.
Breden said she is concerned with the amount of people who carelessly throw things in the trash.
“It’s a very understandable action; I’m not innocent of it either,” Breden said. “I think it’s just something in general, not just at Butler. But it’s just something that’s not on people’s priority lists.”
Junior Victoria Wyss has a similar view.
“It is difficult to recycle here when not all the people I live with care about recycling,” Wyss said.
A major issue with recycling, even during RecycleMania, is confusion on what can be thrown in the recycling, said Mackenzie Beverage, Butler’s sustainability coordinator and ECO’s advisor.
“Things with food on them, like pizza boxes, cannot go into the recycling,” Beverage said. “And when that happens we have to throw it in the trash, which sucks, because we don’t want to throw it in the trash.”
Beverage said she believes a lack of recycling on campus is a self-perpetuating trend.
“When people see that, they get really mad and say Butler doesn’t recycle anyway and that lowers recycling rates even more because people push back,” she said.
Another difficult part of recycling on Butler’s campus is glass can only be recycled in the recycling container in the Schwitzer parking lot. Butler’s Building Services crew is reluctant to put another bin somewhere on campus, Beverage said.
Glass currently is not accepted in recycling locations due to possible safety issues with housekeeping handling the glass materials, said Rich Michal, executive director of facilities.
“I would like to put one by AV,” Beverage said. “That’s not been resolved, but we’ve talked about it and it’s on my mind.”
The difficulty of coordination is worth it, Breden said.
“The fact that a glass bottle takes a million years to disintegrate—it’s a very compelling reason,” Breden said.
The lack of awareness about RecycleMania is also problem, Breden said.
“In 2012, Butler won state in RecycleMania but no one knew about it because it wasn’t advertised well,” she said. “We’re definitely doing our best getting the word out with as few people as we have in ECO. We’re a very small club.”
Breden said she is attending resident assistant meetings to encourage RAs to talk to their residents as well as relying on their online presence.
“It’s sort of hard with an event like RecycleMania that’s eight weeks long and there’s not a single thing that people do,” she said. “It’s just a general push for recycling.”
Breden said ECO is going to have a table at Starbucks in upcoming weeks with information on the event as well as giveaways on Facebook and Twitter (@ECOatButler).
Another concern for ECO is the awareness of recycling areas on campus.
Butler has 20 exterior single stream recycling bins in various locations on campus. In addition, the campus has two cardboard compactors—one located at Atherton Union and one at the Service Center. One bin for metal recycling also located at the Service Center, as well as seven exterior containers for soda cans and bottles.
Building Services in charge of collecting trash and recycling, weighing it and sending the results to RecycleMania.
The amount of recycled material may be easy to measure, but an increase in student recycling is not, Breden said.
“I think it’s one of those things where each year we can kind of build on last year’s efforts,” Breden said. “Hopefully, in coming years, we can maybe have pre-surveys and post-surveys to ask people about whether they think their recycling habits increased. That will definitely be helpful.”
Beverage has talked to staff and students to hear what their biggest campus concerns. By far, most people were concerned with recycling and waste on campus, Beverage said.
“People associate sustainability with recycling, where it’s really so much more,” Beverage said, “so part of me kind of resents the fact that people always want to talk to me about recycling because it’s like the baseline thing, it’s so much more than that.”
Beverage has several goals in order to promote more recycling on Butler’s campus outside of RecycleMania.
One idea is to do a public waste audit, where the contents of one Dumpster would be dumped on the mall for a day. Then, students would suit up and measure the amount of recyclable material they pulled from the trash.
“We will see what percentage is food, what percentage is just regular trash, and we will be able to see what people’s behaviors are,” Beverage said. “So it’s dual purpose:.It raises awareness and collects data so we can figure out how to address the rest of the problem, because we don’t really know what the problem is.”
Along with other recycling projects, Breden said she would recommend helping friends recycle as well.
“Hearing from your friends can be very helpful as far as social proof goes,” she said.
RecycleMania is ECO’s big push for preventing waste, but the organization is interested in finding other ways to promote recycling as well, Breden said.
“I guess recycling is like one part of a rather broader attitude about caring for our earth and environment that kind of comes with a package,” Breden said. “You want to make sure you’re doing what you can and it’s one of those small behaviors that can make a large impact.”