The results are in, and Notre Dame has finished in the top 25% in this year’s RecycleMania competition. Notre Dame placed 63rd out of 296 in the Grand Champion category, far surpassing its 108 out of 266 finish from last year. The University also progressed in the Gorilla category, finishing 46th out of 357, improving from 63rd out of 296 last year. With an increase from 264,953 pounds of recyclables to 300,740 pounds, the university has increased its bulk recycling by roughly 15%.
What accounts for this year’s recycling success? Myles Robertson, Intern and Program Coordinator at the Office of Sustainability, credited “benchmarking early in the competition to see what areas of the university had the most opportunity for change.” By focusing on athletic events and reevaluating placement of trash and recycling receptacles, recycling on campus is becoming more efficient and easier for everyone.
“Conducting recycling audits and looking at what has been successful at other universities contributed as well,” added Robertson. “We owe a lot of this success to the efforts of Max Ducey ‘16, our RecycleMania Intern. He was on the ground ensuring that our efforts were organized and engaging for students.”
Ducey’s main contribution to this year’s RecycleMania competition was organizing an event at a Men’s Basketball game. On Tuesday, March 5th, a group of 12 student volunteers acted as recycling liaisons at the game against St. John’s at the Purcell Pavilion. Students held signs displaying recyclable and non-recyclable items and positioned themselves near receptacles throughout the concourse, both during halftime and after the game. A noticeable change in recycling mentality was seen among patrons, as people thought twice about which receptacle food packaging should be thrown in and made note to empty food waste into trashcans. Ushers were grateful for the volunteers’ efforts.
The event prompted the Joyce Center to pursue better recycling methods, including the adoption of a Spring GameDay recycling program in conjunction with the Office of Sustainability. “I feel that every year the Notre Dame community becomes more aware of the importance of recycling and sustainability,” Ducey said in regards to the success of the event. “You can see it in the results of this year’s RecycleMania competition.”
The efforts of many individual students have helped to integrate waste reduction and recycling into campus culture. For example, Megan Malley ‘13, a Graphic Design major, organized an event to raise awareness about the environmental impact of the water bottle industry earlier this semester, and Amy Schockling ’14 held a recycling month in her dorm in February, featuring a new recyclable item each week.
“It’s small efforts on the part of individuals that are going to effect the greatest change in our effort to become a sustainable campus,” continued Ducey. “We can provide the means for recycling and reducing energy waste, we can install more bins and water bottle filling stations, but none of this has an effect unless people are utilizing these resources, and this only comes with a shift in mentality, one which is brought on by people doing little things to remind us about the importance of sustainability.”
The momentum generated from the RecycleMania competition is being carried into future sustainability projects. Recycling audits of all the major athletic facilities were conducted earlier this month to optimize the ease of recycling at sporting events. More recycling bins are being brought in to the softball, baseball, and soccer stadiums and an event will be held at a baseball game to promote campus sustainability.