Temple succeeded in some areas of the contest, but fell short in pounds recycled.
For eight weeks, the Office of Sustainability, University Housing and Residential Life and departments all across the university focused on using less and recycling more for the annual Recyclemania, a national recycling competition among universities and colleges.
On Friday, April 13, the final results were released and the university met all but one of its goals.
The university’s goals for the 2012 competition were to recycle 415,000 pounds of waste, place No. 1 in the Atlantic Ten Conference for most recyclables and place No. 1 among the A10 rivals for waste minimization. Temple placed atop the A10 division in both the most recyclables and waste minimization categories. Temple fell short of its goal, but collected 403,097 pounds of recyclables.
Vice President for Operations in the Office of Sustainability Kathleen Grady saw both the good and the bad in missing this goal.
“We are actually not going to make that goal because we collected a little over 403,000 pounds, which is about what we did last year,” Grady said. “It could be good or it could be bad because we’ve also increased our recycling rate this year. But, the reason we may not have been able to make this 415,000 is because people may have been using less.”
In the 2011 competition, Temple won the A10 waste minimization category with 37.44 pounds per capita, which is nearly a 10-pound drop from the 2011 number of 46.51 pounds per capita.
“It is important for people to think about waste minimization and I t hink that it is the part that gets missed a lot in Recyclemania, but that is the part we are most interested in,” Grady said. “So, if I can get people to use a reusable water bottle or bag, I think that will have a bigger impact because we won’t have the embodied energy that goes into creating the plastic bottles and transporting bottled water.”
“So, when you think about waste minimization, you are actually thinking beyond just waste and recycling,” Grady added. “You are thinking about overall energy consumption because it takes energy to create these objects.”
Assistant Director of University Housing and Residential Life James Poole gave a different reason as to why the university fell short of their goal.
“A couple years ago, we started looking at, ‘Could the offices around the university do what is called a paper purge?’ So, in other words, you have all these files that have been sitting around for all these years and you could get rid of them. So, if you got rid of them two years ago and last year, you don’t have as much material to get rid of. It is a little bit artificial,” Poole said.
Poole also contributed the transformation from paper documents to digital forms as a reason why the university did not recycle as much as it would like.
Although Recyclemania is a recycling competition among universities all across the country, the Office of Sustainability along with other university departments use the competition as an opportunity to promote recycling.
“It really does give us good framework to do an awareness campaign around recycling and waste minimization, so it gives us a specific target time that we can aggressively reach out to the Temple Community,” Grady said.
With more than 10,000 students living on or around Main Campus and approximately 35,000 students enrolled in the university as a whole, getting students to be cognizant about recycling is a goal of both the Office of Sustainability and Poole.
“To be honest, recycling is very steady amongst the students…I think that there are some students that are aware of the activity and those are students that are passionate about sustainability anyway,” Poole said. “My ambition is pretty much to reach out to the average student, who will recycle a bottle or can, but won’t necessarily go out of their way.”
Freshman neuroscience major Nathan Frankfort said he notices the lack of recycling by some students in his residence hall and across Main Campus.
“I do see a lot of people using reusable water bottles, which I definitely think is made easier by the purified water station. I recycle at home, but the only reason I recycle here is because of the little blue bins, so if we didn’t have those I feel like no one is going to go out of their way,” Frankfort said. “Also, I have not recycled some bottles when their proper bins in the trash room are overflowing.”
Although, Grady believes that the university is doing a good job recycling overall and is satisfied with the results of this year’s Recylcemania competition, she said raising awareness is a job in progress.
“We don’t think it is good enough unless 100 percent of the people are participating,” she said.
Laura Detter can be reached at email@example.com.