Amidst the goal of a Zero Waste campus by 2020, UC Davis struggles to keep up with its previous success in RecycleMania.
After a little over one month of Earth-friendly competition, UC Davis has fallen from last year’s final standing of eighth place and is currently ranked 174 out of 294 universities in the competition division.
The current average diversion rate is 12.38 percent in comparison to the 39.59 percent rate of last year’s competition. Additionally, UC Davis is ranked last out of all the competing UCs, with UC Merced in the lead with a 27.78 percent diversion rate.
Run by the campus‘ R4 Recycling group, the entire 40,000-person campus is competing in RecycleMania 2009 for the first time in its four years of participation. This includes dining services, ASUCD and the Coho, whereas the competition was previously limited to the Segundo, Tercero and Cuarto residence halls.
Though UC Davis has seen a 27 percent drop in average diversion rate, the difference may, in part, be due to the participation of the entire campus, laboratories included.
“UC Davis has particularly unique research,” said Jon Gire, a full time employee of R4 and UC Davis graduate. “This research produces lots of trash; trash we have yet to find sound recycling systems for.“
To improve the campus‘ rank in RecycleMania, R4 members suggest that adequate recycling bins need to be accessible in all campus buildings and outdoors, following the approach taken by Student Housing. Student Housing ensures that residents have access to recycling, and has consistently worked with R4 to provide recycling education to students.
“During last year’s RecycleMania competition, the diversion rate at Student Housing was over 40 percent for several weeks,” Gire said. “Considering green waste recycling was not included, that rate is quite impressive.”
The competition’s emphasis on calculating recycling efforts rather than composted materials may also contribute to UC Davis‘ low standing, said Crystal Huang, team leader for RecycleMania and third year atmospheric science major.
Beginning on Feb. 17, R4 introduced a Zero Waste option for University Catering services, in which biodegradable materials are used as the standard for all catered events. Plastics, Styrofoam and single serving packets are avoided. Zero Waste is an effort to reduce consumption, minimize waste and maximize recycling opportunities.
“The best way to reduce waste is to not use anything,” Huang said. “I would suggest reducing and reusing more than recycling, because recycling requires so much energy to produce a new product.“
According to the RecycleMania website, the average college student generates 600 pounds of waste per year. Instead of settling for the convenience of the nearest waste receptacle, students are encouraged to find the one appropriate for their waste.
“I think it’s good that we’re doing poorly because it gives people a chance to work harder, so we can improve next year,” Huang said. “As a university we need to educate the community on doing better with reducing waste on an individual basis rather than university wide.“
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