RecycleMania asks bottle-swilling students to weigh in
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Forget March Madness - Colleges and universities from across the country and beyond are battling for the top spot in the largest federally-sponsored recycle event in the country.

SF State is participating in RecycleMania, a nation-wide race to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much waste as possible before March 28.

"Although our overall recycling rate is lower than last year, we are actually generating less waste," said Caitlin Steele, SF State sustainability coordinator. "On average, we are recycling and throwing away about four pounds less per person per week. To me that is a great success."

This year, SF State has seen a seven-percent increase in recycling from on-campus housing communities, while the overall waste collected is about two-thirds of
what it was last year.

"We still have four weeks to go, so if everyone helps out by recycling all plastics, paper, bottles and cans in the recycle bins, we will have a shot," Steele said.

Going into the seventh week, SF State is holding down 12th place in the Grand Champion division, a bracket which measures both waste reduction and recycling. In the Gorilla Prize competition, a race to gather the highest gross tonnage of recyclables, SF State ranks 19th with approximately 246,780 pounds of waste recycled.

CSU San Marcos has a commanding lead in the Grand Champion division with a cumulative recycling rate of 82.53 percent. In the Gorilla Prize division, Rutgers University is comfortable on top with more than one million pounds of waste recycled, which more than doubles the closest runners-up, Harvard University.

Some students are concerned that the competition favors "party schools." That is, schools with strong Greek systems or other school-related drinking communities can recycle large amounts of bottles and cans.

"Clearly the schools with drinking problems have the edge," said Rebecah
Barraza, an apparel design major at SF State. "I think we're at a disadvantage."

This year, 510 colleges and universities from every state are participating in the 10-week competition. But for the first time in RecycleMania history, six international institutions have joined the melee; five Canadian universities and one school from India, the Rajarambapu Institute of Technology.

The competition is broken up into divisions, each concentrating on a different aspects of sustainability such as waste reduction and recycling. For example, in the Gorilla division, some schools target specific waste materials like corrugated cardboard and glass bottles.

The winner of RecycleMania receives no awards or profound recognition. Cash prizes and fancy trophies are beside the point, according to Ashley Malyszka, recycling education coordinator.

"It's more about the prestige of winning," said Malyszka, an environment sciences major at SF State. "It's supposed to be a friendly contest."

As good-natured as it may be, some schools are privately offering rewards for housing communities and departments who post the highest numbers each week, from incandescent light bulbs at Meredith College in North Carolina to a $200 cash prize at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

SF State awarded Zhen Tan and Rebecca Eichten last week with sustainability packages worth more than $600 combined for winning first place in a poster design competition.

Prizes aside, RecycleMania is a competition designed to encourage schools around the world to apply environmentally sustainable practices centered around reducing waste.

"Sustainability is centered around the idea of reduction: waste reduction, energy reduction, resource reduction," said Steele. "The SF State community is doing a lot of work in this area and the RecycleMania results reflect that."

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