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Thursday, September 21, 2023


RecycleMania raises environmental awareness on campus

One of the main goals of RecycleMania has been to raise awareness of recycling bins across campus where students can deposit papers, cardboard and some types of metals and plastics depending on the bin. | Corbin Ayres/The Cougar

After two months of University-wide trash sorting, RecycleMania will be closing out at the end of March.

Organized by the Office of Sustainability, RecycleMania is an annual contest designed to raise student awareness of recycling on campus with students taking part in various mini-events throughout where they earn buttons which enter them in prize raffles.

“RecycleMania, bare basics, is that in February and March, a bunch of colleges report on how much recycling they’re doing,” said Sustainability Coordinator Gabriel Durham. “We all get put on a little scorecard together and have a little friendly competition.”

More than 100 universities nationwide, including the University of Texas at Austin and Cornell University, are also taking part in RecycleMania and its special challenges such the Zero Building Challenge, in which all the waste from one whole building is recycled, according to the contest’s website.

“What we’re doing this year is we’re having the button competition. (There are) three different buttons you get for attending different RecycleMania events,” Durham said. “They’re like raffle tickets. One button gets you entered into the raffle to win a zero-waste kit, and if you get all three buttons it triples your entry.”

The buttons encourage students to go to as many RecycleMania events as possible in order to have the highest odds of winning the zero-waste kit, featuring items like beeswax wrapping paper and bamboo straws, Durham said.

“One of the buttons you can only get at the E-Waste Drive,” Durham said. “Any old cellphones, old chargers, old computer towers, old mice, old keyboards — bring them out and we’ll recycle them for you.”

The E-Waste Drive, one of the final events of this semester’s RecycleMania, takes place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 28 in front of Student Center South.

Another one of the three buttons can only be obtained by delivering a bag of recycling waste to Durham, who will be stationed in front of the Cougar Card offices at the Welcome Center Garage. The last opportunity to do so will be between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday.

“We partnered with the Student Center and had a large number of students out there watching (“A Plastic Ocean”). We also (have) signs all over campus, and also every week I’m out in front of the Student Center Office,” Durham said.

The 2013 documentary film “A Plastic Ocean” focuses on the problem of pollution in the world’s oceans.

The last button can be earned by taking a picture with a friend while doing something “green,” using the hashtag #caughtgreenhanded and tagging it @uhsustain on Twitter.

“You actually have to find a friend and take a selfie with them recycling or using a reusable water bottle,” Durham said. “Then you and your friend both get the green button, so it’s a way to get you and your friend a button really fast.”

Along with the button system for the raffle, the event gives students a chance to recycle all their waste through the Office of Sustainability.

“I like that UH has an event specifically to promote recycling,” said mathematics junior Haley Rosso. “I also like that students can take their trash to the office and the staff will help them determine what is or is not recyclable.”

Another positive about RecycleMania is it allows students to recycle electronic waste, which isn’t normally easy to recycle, she said.

“I have some old cell phones and printer cartridges that I’m happy I can get rid of in an ethical way instead of sending them off to a landfill,” Rosso said.

While accessibility to recycling bins is not a big issue, Rosso said she believes it would be beneficial if UH created a place to recycle plastic film, which can’t be put in regular recycling bins.

“Although I think UH does a pretty good job promoting recycling in general, I think there needs to be more exposure specifically about what should and shouldn’t be put in the bins,” Rosso said. “Often when putting my stuff in the bins I’ll notice grocery bags, Styrofoam and glass, all of which are not recyclable and can contaminate other objects.”

With RecycleMania happening over the course of February and March, Rosso said she sees plenty of students using the recycling bins on campus.

“I notice that a lot of people make a point to use the recycling bins, especially since a lot of them are next to the regular trash bins anyway,” Rosso said. “I think it helps that the bins are accessible pretty much anywhere on campus.”

This year, RecycleMania will be going on until the end of March, but plans are already in the works to bring it back next year. As for the button contest, everybody has a good shot at winning, Durham said.

“I’m looking forward to potentially winning one of the zero-waste kit prizes,” Rosso said. “I think buying reusable is the most important step in living a sustainable lifestyle, and having access to reusable (products) can cut down the waste students create significantly.”

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