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February 5, 2009

University competes to increase recycling

An expanded emphasis on recycling in Pitt’s residence halls has brought RecycleMania to campus.

Pitt is among some 500 schools participating in the College and University Recycling Council’s nationwide campus recycling challenge. The 10-week competition concludes March 28.

Pitt is among 169 institutions that have registered for the less formal benchmark division, in which recycling collections are measured but not reported in the competition rankings. Results can be viewed at www.

“We wanted to start off smaller and get our feet wet,” said Laura W. Zullo, Facilities Management’s senior manager of capital and special projects, who is working with student leaders on the first-time initiative at Pitt.

Organizers have set a goal of collecting 15 pounds of recyclables per resident student during the competition.

Zullo said Facilities Management hopes to expand the program next year, possibly to include employee areas in addition to the residence halls.

Based on 2008 results from campuses including Carnegie Mellon, Ohio State, Connecticut, Temple and Villanova, as well as the 17-pound-per-student average from RecycleMania’s whole campus division competition, Zullo said the goal is reasonable and attainable.

Overall recycling collections on the Pittsburgh campus rose from 15 percent of the University’s waste in fiscal year 2002 to 39.5 percent in FY08, according to Facilities Management statistics that cover both housing and non-residential areas of the campus.

The University receives credits for recyclables from its waste hauler and, in spite of recent low market prices for such materials, still is receiving credits, Zullo said. With the expanded recycling competition, “We hope to see additional credits,” she said.

In conjunction with Housing and Residence Life, Facilities Management is coordinating collections and weigh-ins of recyclable glass, plastic, metal, paper and cardboard from the residence halls. “It’s what we’re already doing, but we’re just putting higher emphasis on it,” Zullo said. “The main goal is to get students more involved and engaged in recycling. We thought this would be a fun way to do this.”

According to Pitt’s residential student handbook, paper recycling areas are available in residence hall lobbies and containers for glass, aluminum and plastic are located in the trash room on each floor.

Zullo said Facilities Management provided an additional 250 cardboard containers for housing staff to place in strategic locations throughout the residences. The main purpose is awareness, Zullo said: “Think twice before you throw something away.”

Student organization Free the Planet has been instrumental in promoting the competition, Zullo said. Advertising for RecycleMania is running on the Sodexho screens in Market Central and Sutherland Hall, students have set up information tables in the Towers Lobby and Housing and Residence Life sent emails to resident students.

“We counted on the students for promoting it and they’ve done a great job,” Zullo said. “They responded and they are excited.”

Whether or not the 15 pounds-per-student goal is reached, Zullo said, “If we can get the students to think twice before throwing recyclable materials into the trash, I think we’ll have met our goal.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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