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RecycleMania kicks off ten-week campaign

Observer Scene | Friday, February 1, 2008

On Sunday, Notre Dame kicked off a competition that it hopes will renew recycling efforts around campus. Recyclemania is a 10-week, nationwide competition in which more than 400 schools will compete to reduce waste and increase recycling. In order to motivate students to recycle, Notre Dame has decided to make the intercollegiate competition interhall as well.

The Energy and Environmental Issues Committee and student government are sponsoring the event and the competition between dorms is being monitored and tallied by the Students For Environmental Action. There aren’t many rules to this competition, just recycle. Oh, and steal.

In addition to encouraging each dorm to increase its own recycling, the competition allows students to lift recycling from other dorms, but warns that getting caught in the act will likely incur retaliation. Students are permitted to take recyclables from other buildings on campus, but under one stipulation: The recyclables must be dug out of trash bins.

Sifting recyclables from garbage may sound like a dirty job, but it’s something that some students on campus already do. Junior Ann Kelley, a member of Notre Dame’s Students for Environmental Action (NDSEA), says that she and many fellow students often root out recyclables they find improperly placed in trash bins. “We’re used to digging through the trash,” she said.

In addition to the recycling competition, other recycling-oriented events will be taking place in the upcoming weeks. In the fourth week of Recyclemania, a Mass will be held at DeBartolo, and Notre Dame’s waste will be put on display. Also, about seven weeks in, there will be an art competition that will encourage students to create artwork out of recycled products, including crafting a trophy, which will be given to the dorm that wins the competition.

NDSEA is hoping Recyclemania will be remind students how easy it is to recycle on campus.

This school year, Notre Dame began a new single-stream recycling system. Similar in design to Game-Day Recycling, an all-in-one recycling plan implemented last year largely thanks to NDSEA Core members Lourdes Long and Colleen Kelly, single-stream recycling allows students to put all their recyclables in one place. Unlike the recycling infrastructure from previous years, which confused students with different bins for different recyclables, single-stream simplifies the system down to one bin where students can recycle everything from newspaper to empty cans and bottles.

However, single-stream recycling didn’t produce the immediate results it should have. “We feel it wasn’t very well publicized,” Kelley said. But it might be more than just a communication problem.

Fellow NDSEA member Jackie Mirandola-Mullen, a sophomore in Howard Hall, put things plainly. “We’re just lazy,” she said. Mirandola-Mullen pointed out that a student will often toss a bottle in a trash can, rather than depositing it in the recycling bin right next to it.Kelley and Mirandola-Mullen also believe that the labels on recycling bins are insufficient. They stressed that students often don’t realize all the things that they can recycle. “There’s a very minimal amount that should actually be thrown away,” Kelley said.

NDSEA wants students to know they can recycle cardboard, newspaper, aluminum cans, bottles of every kind and many types of plastic. The Styrofoam cups from the dining hall can even be recycled. However, Kelley said the cups used at Starbucks are not recyclable, and NDSEA encourages students to bring their own mugs to the coffee shop.

With recycling now conveniently located around dorms, stealing it from your cross-campus rival should be relatively easy. But while Recyclemania is about fun and mischief, it’s also about being aware. Kelley said she once made a sign that read “Every time you don’t recycle, a kitten dies.” While throwing a bottle in the garbage instead of the recycling bin may not kill a cat, hopefully the thought will help you rethink a careless decision.