The University of Mary Washington placed first in Virginia and 18th out of 338 total schools from the U.S. and Canada participating in Recyclemania.
According to Joni Wilson, the director of landscape and grounds, UMW recycled 37.96 pounds per-person during the eight-week competition, which is the equivalent to 200,000 pounds of recycled materials kept out of landfills.
UMW has improved in the competition since last year when it placed 233rd out of 360 schools.
UMW competes in the Per-Capita Classic, which allows UMW to compete with larger universities since the numbers are not based on the total amount recycled but on a per-person basis.
According to Wilson, the events of the competition are different each year, depending on the current sustainability coordinator and the resources available to the sustainability crew.
Only glass, aluminum and plastic are measured during Recyclemania. This does not account for all the other materials that are recycled on campus daily.
During the shred event over spring break, the University shredded 17,400 lbs, which was three times the amount shredded last year, according to Wilson.
“I would say that there isn’t a sharp spike in recycling during Recyclemania, there is a pretty good average of what we already recycle,” said Wilson. “That is encouraging to me because it means that we are doing a good job.”
However, it is clear to the sustainability crew that what most students are throwing in the trash could be recycled based on the dumpster dive held during the Recyclemania competition.
“During the dumpster dive, half of what we saw could have been recycled,” said senior Will Bennett, a philosophy major and the current sustainability coordinator.
Wilson and Bennett also expressed concern about contamination.
“We have a really high level of contamination,” said Wilson. “People are putting paper cups in with glass, aluminum and plastic.”
When that happens, the recycling is no practical, said Wilson.
The contamination also leads to a low amount of recycling bags that are collected on campus.
“On Monday we only collected five bags, three on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” said Wilson.
However, the recycling bins across Campus Walk have also brought more awareness to students.
“The convenience of the recycling bins have inspired me to start recycling because I would feel bad walking past them and throwing something away that was recyclable into the trash— but now I do what I can to actively participate,” said Rebecca Smith, sophomore a historic preservation major.
Due to the results of the dumpster dive, there is still hope for an even higher ranking next year’s competition.
“Because half of what was in the trash was recycling, this strongly suggests that we can do better than the top twenty next year,” said Bennett.