Recycling competition inspires sustainability

In an effort to promote environmental protection on campus, colleges across the country are competing to promote sustainability in an annual Recyclemania competition.

Recyclemania was initially a contest in 2001 between Ohio University and Miami University to determine which school could recycle more. After a successful first year, the program gained interest among other universities, which eventually led to a partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency WasteWise program in 2004.

Since 2001, Recyclemania has prevented 127,553 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the environment.

Recyclemania, an 8-week contest held each spring, consists of U.S. and Canadian colleges reporting the amount of waste recycled weekly. The competition has eleven categories broken into divisions. Universities can participate in either Grand Champion, Stephen K Gaski Per Capita Classic, Waste Minimization, Gorilla Prize, Targeted Materials, E-cycleMania, Film Plastic or Game Day: Basketball. Since 2006, UTSA has participated in either Gorilla Prize, a category that concerns the highest gross tonnage of recyclable material irrespective of campus population; and Grand Champion, which generates a recycling rate percentage of a school’s overall waste.

The UTSA Office of Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management sponsors Recyclemania. In 2013, UTSA ranked 27 among 274 schools throughout the U.S. and Canada for the Grand Champion category with a recycling rate of 54.835%. This meant the campus recycled more waste than it produced. Additionally, UTSA ranked 103 in the Gorilla category, collecting 188,184 pounds of recyclable material.

Richard Garza, Environmental and Construction Safety Manager, recognizes the importance of reducing waste and identifies students as the main contributors for making UTSA a sustainable environment.

“Take a look in your room and (ask) what do you do when something is no longer needed…” said Garza in response to throwing away recyclables. “If students can get the word that they need to think before they dump their trash, they can make the choice to recycle,” which can improve campus sustainability. Moreso, Garza reminds students that campus recycle bins take almost any material except Styrofoam, liquids and food.

“Recyclemania is important because it reminds and shows people how to recycle, especially here at the university,” remarked Paula Ngyuen, Green Society President. “Because we have single stream recycling bins and it’s easy to recycle. Once you have that big rush from Recyclemania, then people will understand then that they can (recycle) every year.”

Currently, UTSA ranks 31 among 274 schools in the Grand Champion category with a recyclable rate of 49.003%. Winning schools are nationally recognized for their sustainability efforts, but Garza remains humble, reminding students that “the biggest winner is the environment, and you basically contribute to sustainability by being part of the recycling program.”

For more information on Recyclemania or UTSA environmental programs, visit