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Trash talk ignites friendly competition, reduces landfill waste

The Osprey Crossings residence halls are in the lead for a nationwide recycling initiative, as of Feb. 28.

RecycleMania is an eight-week competition between college campuses to determine who can collect the most recyclable waste in terms of weight, and this is UNF’s third consecutive year competing.

There are four targeted material competitions, and UNF is registered in the Waste Minimization category, which focuses more on overall waste collected as opposed to just recyclable material.

This year, the Environmental Center has decided to add a new spin to RecycleMania by pitting the residence halls against each other. Each individual dorm building will battle to collect the most recyclable waste for a chance to win a party and free showing of the environmental documentary “No Impact Man.”

“We’ve never had a formal competition in the dorms,” said Colleen Herms, project assistant for the Environmental Center.

Herms said the residence halls were targeted for the competition because they are responsible for a large percentage of UNF’s total waste.

“The students in the dorms are on campus 24/7, so they can make more of an impact by recycling than those who commute to and from campus and are only here for a few hours at a time,” Herms said.

The students in the residence halls will compete weekly by gathering recyclable waste, collecting it in designated bins placed around the dorms and weighing it to determine how much recycling is produced per student resident.

“Jacksonville is limited to what we can recycle,” Herms said. “We can recycle No. 1 and No. 2 plastics, aluminum and certain types of paper, but no glass.”

Herms said the percentage of overall waste collected varies among colleges throughout the country because of certain variables like their environment, student and faculty participation, and what each college is allowed to recycle.

“It used to be that we had to separate paper from plastics in different bins, but now we can just put it all together, which makes things easier,” Herms said.

The Environmental Center, which acts as a resource center for UNF, provides students with an abundance of ‘green’ activities and events. The center hosts Garbage on the Green in the fall and gives students the option to rent equipment like tents, sleeping bags, canoes and kayaks for free.

The center also works with local companies to organize alternative transportation to campus and alternative food choices. Its main goal is to get people to appreciate the natural environment of Northeast Florida, and RecycleMania is just one of the many ways they are doing so.

“Events like this are going to help raise awareness about recycling particularly among the students who are tomorrow’s leaders, ” said Dr. Radha Pyati, director of UNF’s Environmental Center. “We’re taking items that we’re already planning to not use and give them another life.”

All the waste collected, including the bins from the dorms, are accounted for and entered into the RecycleMania over-all competition, while the waste collected from the dorms is weighed separately for the residence hall battle, Herms said.

She said the main goal for the event is to improve a couple percentage points from last year.

“About 21 percent of our entire waste stream is recycled, and 25 percent of our waste stream is plastic,” Herms said. “Unfortunately though, only 10 percent of all the bottles that go into the trash are recycled.”

Herms said the residence competition is a more intense way of getting students’ attention about the benefits of recycling, as opposed to day-events that can be fun but forgettable.

“We want this competition to be an in-your-face type of awareness about recycling,” she said. “If the students in the dorms walk by the bins on a daily basis and see their peers putting things in the bins, it will motivate them to do the same and make a gradual change.”

The Green Ospreys, an environmental issues club, are set to host a waste collection event later this semester in order to spread the word about the RecycleMania competition and boost the percentage of gathered waste.

In coordination with the RecycleMania competition, the city of Jacksonville Solid Waste Division is hosting five household hazardous waste and electronic waste collection events. The next collection event will be Saturday, Mar. 12 at Blue Cypress Park off University Boulevard from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.

If you miss the designated collection days, you can drop e-waste off to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility located at 2675 Commonwealth Ave. It is open Monday though Saturday, 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

For other e-waste collection dates and a list of what qualifies as hazardous and e-waste is, visit coj.net, keyword: hazardous waste.

Students can find more information about RecycleMania at unf.edu/ecenter/Recyclemania.aspx. The website provides weekly updates for each residence hall’s recycled waste percentage and displays a map of where designated recycle bins are located on campus. A list of recyclable-materials are labeled on each bin.

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