The 2011 Recyclemania competition, which kicked off last Sunday, pits 630 colleges and universities against each other in a competition to see who can recycle the most.

William Del Vecchio, manager of solid waste and recycling at the university, is optimistic that Georgetown will fare well in it’s fifth go-round at the program.

“Georgetown has a top-rated recycling program — we always do well.  So far, we’ve always been in the top 25 percent,” he said.

Georgetown’s recycling rates are relatively high compared to area schools like The George Washington University and Howard University. The university boasts a recycling rate of 47.55 percent of the 2220 tons of waste generated since July of last year.

“I can basically tell you that there are no schools in the area that come close to our rates of recycling,” Del Vecchio said. “We’ve consistently come in the top 50 across the board and higher in some categories of the [Recyclemania] competition.”

Although Georgetown has consistently ranked in the top third of the competition, Del Vecchio says that there is still room for improvement. This year, Georgetown has decided to focus on two aspects of the competition: overall recycling rates and waste minimization.

“To maximize the environmental benefit, it’s best to first reduce or limit consumption of resources,” Audrey Stewart, the program coordinator for sustainability at Georgetown, said. “Recycling is listed third in the phrase, ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ for a reason — while better than throwing items away, it still consumes energy, and many materials cannot be truly recycled.”

The facilities, Residential Life and sustainability offices have teamed up with EcoAction, a student-run environmental group, among others, to promote the competition and increase student involvement.

Just in time for the competition, the facilities department has distributed individual recycling bins in Harbin and Darnall Halls as part of a pilot program to increase recycling rates in residence halls. According to Del Vecchio, residence halls are the biggest areas in which recycling is neglected.

“All faculty and staff have [the individual recycling bins], but this is the first time we’re putting them in residence halls,” Del Vecchio said.  “We’ve planned this since two years ago to introduce them in the dorms. We’ll see if it affects Recyclemania.”

EcoAction also has several activities planned to promote student awareness.

“Throughout Recyclemania, EcoAction will do recycling raids, where we go through the trash cans across campus and take out the recyclable materials,” Seungah Lee (SFS ’12), co-president of EcoAction, said. “We usually create some sort of art with the recyclable materials we found during the raid and display it on campus to show what is not being recycled.”

Posters with statistics and guidelines for easy recycling will also be posted around campus, and the sustainability office’s website offers information on the competition.

Recyclemania, an eight-week-long recycling competition first started in 2001, has grown rapidly. The Recyclemania tournament ends April 2.

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