On an early Saturday morning, Recycle Center Coordinator Shelby Cooper shuffles through a pile of Pizza Pipeline boxes, alcohol bottles, and avoids a pile of hardened throw-up outside the Fairhaven dorms.

But Cooper isn’t fazed by it or the other mistakenly recycled waste in the bins.

“That’s one thing, most of the drinkers on campus are really good recyclers,” Cooper said, “which is one reason why I like to come on the weekends.”

Cooper’s Saturday runs, compared to the other general university runs that the Recycle Center maintains, is specifically for RecycleMania, a nationwide recycling competition between more than 200 schools. The competition lasts from Jan. 28 to April 7.
The purpose of RecyleMania is to promote recycling and waste awareness, Cooper said. It also acts as an avenue for schools to obtain recognition by winning trophies, awards and other ceremonious certifications. Cooper said that it gives recycling centers an opportunity to reassess their programs to see if anything should be done differently.

This is Western’s first year participating in the competition. Fairhaven residence dorms are acting as the guinea pig for the first year, since Recycle Center Coordinator Richard Neyer is on maternity leave while his wife has a child.

Cooper said it’s easier for the students to test out the event on a smaller area instead of a massive university-wide campaign. Next year, the Recycle Center may expand the competition to the entire university or do a larger sub-section.

RecycleMania began in 2001 between Ohio University and Miami University. Since then, the competition has grown each year, with 2007 seeing the largest amount of participants since its beginning. Schools have gotten more competitive over winning the hand-crafted trophies and in getting more people involved with recycling.

Western, along with the University of Washington and Washington State University, are the only Washington schools that participate in the program.

Western’s category is Per Capita Classic, and the target material is corrugated cardboard. Schools can choose two different categories to participate in, like Per Capita Classic and Waste Minimization. There are then targeted materials such as paper, corrugated cardboard, bottles and cans, and overall waste minimization.

Each week schools weigh their amount of recyclables and waste. The numbers are calculated to figure out which school has the largest amount of recyclables and least amount of waste per person. Results are reported on the RecycleMania Web site, Recyclemaniacs.org. Western had close to three pounds per person in the last weigh-in and ranked in the top thirty schools.
Cooper picks the barrels up from the main Fairhaven courtyard (this stop also includes the dining services waste), the Outback, and behind the Fairhaven dorms.

Once all the recyclables are sorted, weighed, and calculated it becomes a waiting game to see who will have the highest totals for the week. The totals are calculated and posted the following Wednesday.

Check out the RecycleMania Web site at recyclemaniacs.org to see how Western is weighing in and how residents in Fairhaven are doing to conquer waste management.

“Dorms are notorious for being bad about recycling,” Cooper said. “A lot of it is because the kids are new, it may be different from their recycling at home, or they might not have had recycling at home. We get a little trash and garbage because people aren’t as particular about it. One thing we’re trying to do is get people to know what is and what isn’t recyclable. Dorms are the place where students will learn that and hopefully create a habit from then on.”