Recyclemania Aims To Raise Sustainability Awareness

The New Paltz Recycling Club is currently holding its seventh annual “Recyclemania” tournament, which challenges residence halls to achieve the highest percentage of material diverted from landfills through recycling and composting. The winning residence hall will receive a $500 award for hall programming among other prizes. The competition lasts from Feb. 8 to March 28. Students can find up-to-date rankings and data for each residence hall on the webpage of the Office for Campus Sustainability.

Recyclemania has evolved from its small start into a tournament at over 100 college campuses across the U.S. and Canada. According to the Recyclemania website, participating schools can compare their progress with efforts of other colleges and universities online and “use the results to rally their campus to reduce and recycle more.” Recyclemania also features different categories for competing schools, and schools who win in each category are nationally recognized.

James Accordino, a fourth-year geology major and vice president of New Paltz Recycling Club, said that the club introduced Recyclemania to encourage recycling seven years ago. To spread the word, the club attends meetings for the Residence Hall Student Association (RHSA). RHSA student leaders then share the program with students in their respective residence halls. Club President Melissa Iachetta, a fourth-year geography major with a minor in environmental studies, meets with RHSA weekly during the tournament to announce the updated rankings.

According to Iachetta, recycling rates in past years were calculated by campus facilities workers. However, Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Mitten was able to contact waste management contractors, who now weigh each hall’s recycling output each week to calculate data.

Last year’s competition used a simple equation of pounds of recycling per resident per hall to calculate rankings among residence halls. Iachetta described the previous equation as “recycling plus organic [waste] divided by total hall count.” However, the old formula did not factor landfill waste into the equation. The club now uses a new formula of “recycling plus organics divided by recycling plus organics plus landfill [waste]” to calculate statistics. This, Iachetta said, gives the club a diversion rate in percentage form and allows the club to assess how much waste is diverted from landfills.

Iachetta praised this new formula and explained how it gives more perspective into different facets of New Paltz’s sustainability efforts. She said that halls can recycle mass quantities of waste, but if halls produce significantly more landfill waste, the actual diversion rate can be quite low.

Iachetta explained how different halls use different tactics to compete. According to her, Crispell Hall’s hall government took a nod from last year’s winner, Esopus Hall, and split their hall up into separate wings. Members of RHSA will target each wing individually and create a mini-competition to recycle the most waste inside Crispell. The winning wing receives a prize of some sort. Iachetta described these tactics as “motivation for [students] to do more.”

Iachetta also spoke about one of the Recycling Club’s current mini-challenges within Recyclemania. She described the 3R Challenge, which is a social media challenge that invites students on campus to post Instagram photos of themselves reducing, reusing or recycling waste and to tag their respective residence halls. The residence hall with the most tagged images will win a $75 giftcard to Carry Out Kings to supply food for hall events.

According to Iachetta, the tournament’s spirit of friendly competition helps to make students “more aware” of recycling and sustainability.