Recyclemania was born when Newman spoke to a colleague at Miami University in Oxford about looking for a way to interest students in sustainable living, he recalled.
This year, 11 out of the 13 universities in the Mid American Conference will compete to see who can recycle the most in an eight-week time period; OU and its five branch campuses will compete with the other MAC schools, Newman said.
“We will probably be focusing (on) who we compete with. It’s hard to compete with all 6,000 to 7,000 schools (in the country),” Newman said. “The MAC is an obvious target for us, because we are already competing with them in so many ways.”
Branch campuses also will compete for the first time this year, Newman said, adding that it will be interesting to see how they measure up. Kent State and Bowling Green State University will have students on their branch campuses recycling as well.
Last year, OU won the competition among MAC schools, he said, noting that Recyclemania played out in a way that mirrored the NCAA basketball tournament.
“Kent and OU were the last two schools in the MAC,” Newman said. “(Kent) choked like they did in basketball, and we beat them.”
Newman also has his sights set on a Southern school, Auburn, which won the BCS-NCAA college football championship.
“Just to let everybody know – they may be the best with football, but we are better than the best in recycling,” Newman said. “We do that with Ohio State routinely.”
Last year about 607 schools registered, and Newman said he expects about the same number to be registered this year. The official competition kicks off in two weeks, but Jan. 23 started the exhibition period, he said.
Recycling itself has been down over the past years, said Alec Cooley, director of recycling programs with Keep America Beautiful.
Recycling was a fad of the 1990s, Cooley said, but programs like Recyclemania do inspire students to get involved.
“Across the country there is more awareness about environmental issues, but with recycling itself, it has actually dipped down,” he said. “Of the percentage of all trash being generated, there’s less being recycled. That’s why it’s important for folks both to recycle more, and reduce that amount of trash they’ve generated in the first place.”
Cooley also said that Recyclemania is a program that can help college students know how to recycle once they move away from their hometowns and go off to school.
“Recyclemania is a way you make a bottom-line contribution to improving your campus community, and it’s part of a way to show your school’s spirit,” Cooley said. “It’s a way of raising OU’s profile across the country.”
Recyclemania provides people with the incentive to recycle, said Jim Laske, who is a graduate student working with OU’s Department of Sustainability to coordinate the collaborative effort between his department and OU’s Recycling Center.
“I think (participating) is important for everybody,” Laske said. “(We) have limited resources, and if we don’t use them efficiently, pretty soon we won’t have enough things to make bottles. We won’t be able to afford it.”