Colleges weigh into trash recycling contest
THe Boston Globe 2/17/2005
By Jason Nielsen, Globe Correspondent

When it comes to trash, Harvard is among the elite -- of recycling contests, that is. The university has been competing directly against Yale since 1999 and participating in RecycleMania, a nationwide college recycling contest since 2001.

For this year's RecycleMania, which runs through April 9, the Crimson is going for the gold, or green, against local participants MIT, Tufts, and Boston College.

The schools compete in the overall recycling rates from residence halls, dining halls, and on-campus apartments, and overall on-campus recycling rates, which is new to this year's competition. For the first half of the contest, the rates come from the weight of the recyclable material; for the all-campus category, the rate represents the weight of the total trash, including the recyclable material, divided by the weight of the recycling. The lowest week of recycling data is dropped in computing the 10-week total. Materials allowed to be recycled include office paper, magazines, newspapers, chipboard, cans, glass, plastic, and cardboard boxes.

After the first three weeks of competition, Tufts had collected an average of 11.99 pounds of recyclables per student in the student housing contest and a rate of 37.66 in the overall campus recycling contest. Harvard University averaged 13.82 pounds of recyclables per student and 25.10 in the overall campus contest. MIT recycled an average of 12.34 pounds per student in the housing and dining hall category; it is not participating in the overall campus contest. Boston College averaged 17.95 pounds in the overall campus rate; the school is not participating the student housing and dining hall contest.

Junior Tasha Bartch, 19, a Harvard biology major from San Diego, said that her strategy to getting students involved consisted in making recycling simple and competitive. She is also the co-captain of the Resource Efficiency Program, which promotes environment-friendly habits in the dorms and Harvard Yard.

''We just try to make it seem quick, convenient, and not hard to switch habits," said Bartch.

Harvard students recycle a lot of paper, she said, adding that at the dining hall, it tends to be newspapers, like the New York Times and the school daily, The Harvard Crimson.

Rob Gogan, recycling and waste manager at Harvard University Operations Services in Allston, said the local competition is good for the cause of recycling. He explained that Boston College recently revamped its dormitory recycling program. While MIT could do well, he said that Tufts is a big name in the recycling world and could be a surprise.

The Harvard campus, he said, averages about 31 pounds of recycling per person per month. He said empty Poland Spring and Aquafina water bottles are probably some of the most frequently spotted items on campus, along with Red Bull Energy Drink. For beer, he said it's mainly European with some American brands.

Asked whether students keep their course packets, Gogan said their source books, custom-made textbooks with excerpts from different journals and texts, are the most distinctive thing recycled at Harvard.

Over at Tufts University, senior Caitlin Beatty and other interns from the school's recycling department were working to ensure they had accurate numbers for the week's contest entry.

Beatty said that weighing the recyclables was a lot more tedious than she expected. She explained they had to run after the recycling trucks before they carted away the recyclables and, then, haul it back across campus to be weighed at the scales in the Dewick-MacPhie Dining Hall on the Tufts campus in Medford.

''Our campus is pretty good at recycling," said Beatty. ''I like doing the weighing because you get to actually see where the numbers are coming from."

Most of the recyclables, she explained, consisted of old issues of the school newspaper, the Tufts Daily, and food and computer boxes. There were also a lot of beer boxes, she added, mainly Budweiser and Bud Light. Asked about pizza boxes, she said they can't be recycled, because the grease seeps into the cardboard.

Beatty explained that the contest allows them to raise awareness on campus about recycling. She said they put up a lot of posters in the dormitories and dining halls to let everyone know about the contest.

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