Waste reduction competition RecycleMania comes to an end

Ty Betts

Colorado State University competed with other universities across the United States and Canada during this year’s RecycleMania.

RecycleMania is an annual eight-week competition from Feb. 4 to March 31 meant to promote waste reduction and increase recycling efforts at colleges and universities through a friendly competition, according to the RecycleMania website.


With a leaderboard posted every week, schools can track their progress and compare their waste reduction with competitor universities.

This year, CSU placed 23 in the total diversion category with a 56 percent recycling rate. This leaves CSU behind it’s in-state competitor, Colorado College, which placed 18th in the same category.

2018 CSU rankings by catagory

Diversion – 23rd – 56.111 percent recycling rate

Pounds Per Capita – 128th – 8.309 lbs per capita

Total Recycling – 38th – 465,234 pounds

Food Organics – 55th – 20 points

Waste minimization – 24th – 24.7 lbs per capita

Cardboard – 33rd – 3.5 lbs per capita

Sheela Backen, integrated solid waste program manager for CSU, said CSU has consistently placed in the top 10 percent of the over 300 participating schools every year. There are barriers, however, for CSU in moving up the rankings.

“Our biggest challenge for RecycleMania is we cannot recycle as many items as other states can,” Backen said.

Backen said that items such as styrofoam and plastic bags are unable to be processed at nearby facilities. Additionally, Backen mentioned that soon the Larimer County recycling center will have stricter acceptance policies for items that are contaminated, making recycling more difficult.

To continue to decrease waste on campus and within RecycleMania, CSU has been increasing the use of composting.

A 2016 CSU waste audit, provided by Backen, showed that within a sample waste stream of 684 pounds, 40 percent of it was compostable material. An additional 16 percent of that material was recyclable. Therefore, over half of what was found in the waste stream could have potentially been diverted. 

In an effort to remedy landfilled food scraps, Backen said there is currently composting available at all of the academic buildings, dining halls and kitchens in the Lory Student Center. The university is also testing composting efforts at one apartment complex and one residence hall.

Another tactic for increasing waste diversion by CSU has been to implement a competition of their own.

“We have a competition between the residence halls and we have a competition between the apartments to see who can recycle the most during the RecycleMania competition,” Backen said.


This year’s winners were Ingersoll hall and the University Village apartment complex.   

To progress this mission of waste reduction, Backen said competitions like RecycleMania work well on college campuses.

“As long as we can get the word out to the students that this is what’s going on and we really want to place well in the competition, I think we can teach the students more about recycling,” Backen said. “A lot of our students are very competitive.”

Collegian news reporter Ty Betts can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @TyBetts9.