RecycleMania Midterm Report

by Dawn Quirk

 

It has been a wild first few weeks of RecycleMania with a record 293 schools competing for recycling glory. Between schools new to the contest figuring out how to properly record their data and week-by-week rankings (instead of cumulative) confusion reigned over the first few weeks of the competition. Multiple schools were reporting recycling rates over 70% which is an unheard of rate for secondary institutions.As we head into week 6, the dust has settled and Tufts finds itself squarely at #36 in the rankings. On the one hand, this is a departure in ranking from previous years. Where we consistently finished in the top twenty-five schools. And there is room for improvement! There are a number of schools packed within the same tight range near 40% and Tufts is definitely within striking distance of a number of them (particularly that ROGUE Boston College).

On the other hand, Tufts has improved upon its own recycling rate this year by nearly 5% so far from last year. A number of schools have upped the ante this year and more overall recycling across the board is a good thing.

Lastly, with all the hub-bub about recycling, remember your other R’s as well: reducing and reusing*. Because while it is nice to score well in the competition, the ultimate goal of an exercise like this is to reduce the amount of waste coming from each school. Little steps such as:

– bringing a coffee mug with you instead of using paper cups
– choosing a product with less packaging
– not buying items you will never use to begin with
– bringing your own bags to the store and reusing plastic bags you do acquire as trash bags
– taking the time to make sure you are PURCHASING recycled products whenever possible
– compost food scraps in your home and elsewhere

These all make a huge difference in waste reduction, particularly if everybody does these things.

Well, that’s enough of me on my lil’ soap box here. I’ll be back to writing funny stuff next week. Take care and recycle strong!

*So… this is gonna date me a little bit, but rumor has it that since my time in elementary school a 4th “R” has weaseled its way into the “R’s” lingo. “Rethinking”. Sure, okay. Seems like a good one as it implies that institutional choices can make a huge difference in waste reduction. If you are working for a company that makes electronics, how can you reduce the packaging that said electronics come in? How can we make recycling options for this packaging and product more widely available? And can you make them a little bit easier to open? Just a bit??? I mean, I shouldn’t have to struggle for fifteen minutes just to have access to a thumb drive I’ve already bought!!!

Anyway, there was a time back in the “’80’s” – a dark, mythical age where feathered and spiked hair, a Sith Lord named Ronald Reagan, and absolutely horrible music reigned – where the waste reduction steps I mentioned above were hardly on anybody’s mind. Yet now look around. They seem commonplace. Second nature to many but at some point you had to learn those behaviors. Now people are talking about a “zero waste” movement where everything we make and use has a potential reuse. Fascinating stuff. Could it happen?