University of Florida sets out to beat other schools in recycling competition

Background Info: This story was written based on a live lecture were a guest talked about sustainability. In addition to the lecture, I had to find two sources and interview them. 

Each year the University of Florida participates in a challenge called Recyclemania. The challenge started on Jan. 24, 2018 and will end March 31st. 

This year the University of Florida is trying to dive into the competitive aspect of the program and recycle more than any other university.

Recyclemania's goal is to find which university can recycle the most and can reduce the most waste during the period, said Outreach and Communications Coordinator at the University of Florida Office of Sustainability Allison Vitt.

"Every week the schools that are registered to participate provide data," Vitt said. "They report numbers to the official Recyclemania program that keeps track of all of those things."

At the end of the eight weeks winners are announced in different categories, Vitt said. 

UF began participating in the competition in 2007 and received third place for the number of recyclables collected regardless of population, Vitt said. Since then UF hasn't placed in any of the categories. 

This year the university decided to promote their participation, Vitt said. The Office of Sustainability did a challenge video to kick-off the competition and partnered with Gators Going Green.

"GGG is a UF Student Government Agency that aims to promote green initiatives and establish a permanent culture of environmental awareness," said GGG Agency Head Madison Smith. 

GGG was also able to make a video that specifically challenged Florida State University, another participant in the challenge, Vitt said. Most of the competition so far has occurred over social media.

"GGG is helping the Office of Sustainability with promotions of the competition so that students are more likely to participate," Smith said.

UF will be able to come out on top if the school can get as many people to recycle as possible, Vitt Said.

All students at UF can participate by reducing waste, bringing their own water bottle or reusable Tupperware to events such as Krishna, Vitt said.

"UF students can participate in the competition by recycling things that can be recycled, and encouraging others to do so," Smith said. "So much gets thrown away that can be recycled. This is where the students need to make changes in their own lives."

Every week the numbers change so there is no way of knowing for sure where UF stand against the other universities currently, said Recycling and Solid Waste Coordinator Dale Morris. UF does not look at the numbers until the end of the competition since it varies each week.

One thing that may hurt where UF falls is that UF weighs all the recycled material and report real numbers, Morris said. Other universities use estimates, and it is easy to overestimate how much is being recycled. 

"A lot of the time the colleges that win at the top of the per capita category tend to be places you have never heard of," Morris said. "It seems like to me if I haven't heard of them they probably aren't very big, so they are probably overestimating."

When UF switched to weighting, not estimating, all the recycled materials the numbers went down, Morris said. This may be why the school has not placed since the first year we participated.

"Recycling is the right thing to do," Morris said. "We are always looking for ways to continue improvement at UF."