Lawrence among top twenty schools nation-wide for recycling efforts

Emily Zawacki


In the 2012 national RecycleMania competition, Lawrence University finished 19th among 339 schools in the per capita classic division. RecycleMania is a friendly competition between colleges and universities that is used as a benchmarking tool to promote on-campus waste reduction activities and recycling programs.

Running for eight weeks from mid-January to mid-March, schools in the per capita classic division competed to see who could collect the largest combined amount of paper, cardboard, bottles and cans on a per-person basis.

Among the 13 schools that competed in Wisconsin, Lawrence was the division’s top finisher, averaging 37.82 recyclable pounds per person and 73,710 pounds overall. Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. came out first in the nation in the per capita division with 61.79 recyclable pounds per person.

Assistant Professor of Government, Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and current chair of the Green Roots sustainability committee Jason Brozek said, “I’m really happy where we came out. I think we can do better, and I think we can keep improving. We’re making some changes that will help us improve, but overall I’m ecstatic with where we ended up in the competition.”

Before the competition started, Lawrence placed recycling bins made out of locally-salvaged wood to offer more opportunities to recycle, as well as standardizing the recycling process posters found in residence halls to clarify what can be recycled.

In addition to the per capita division, Lawrence also participated in the grand champion, waste minimization and gorilla prize categories of the RecycleMania competition. In the grand champion competition, which determined a school’s recycling rate as a percentage of its overall waste generation, Lawrence placed 126th with a 29percent recycling rate.

Lawrence also came out 177th in the waste minimization, based on measuring the least amount of municipal solid waste per person, and 186th in the gorilla prize, which calculated the highest gross tonnage of recyclables regardless of campus population.

Ultimately, Lawrence’s efforts helped reduce 65 metric tons of carbon dioxidewhich is the equivalent of taking 35 cars off the road or eliminating the energy consumption of 17 households. A combined 148,897 total metric tons of carbon dioxide were reduced from the 2012 RecycleMania competition.

What started as just a competition between Ohio University and Miami University in 2001, RecycleMania has grown to include 605 schools from all across the United States and Canada in the 2012 competition.

Lawrence previously competed in the RecycleMania competition in 2010 and 2011, finishing 10th place both years in the per capita division. During the past two competitions, Lawrence had a cumulative 44.65 and 39.15 pounds of recyclables per person, respectively.

“Definitely in the state, and absolutely in the country, we have a reputation as a school that cares about sustainability. We have a reputation as a community that takes environmental issues seriously, and this [competition] cements that reputation in my mind,” said Brozek.

Green Roots has also been focusing on energy conservation and energy production in addition to their waste management efforts, which includes recycling. Recycling at Lawrence is now single-stream, which means that most paper, plastic, cardboard, cans and glass bottles can all by recycled together.

“It’s important to know that recycling is only part of what we’re trying to do for sustainability on campus,” said Brozek. “We have a multi-pronged approach, and recycling is just one little piece of that. I’m happy that we did well; I think we can do better for recycling, and we are making good progress on a lot of different fronts.”