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Washington and Lee University

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University RecycleMania—Maximizing Recycling After Minimizing Waste

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Washington and Lee University is currently participating in RecycleMania, an annual 10-week effort of colleges and universities across the country to maximize recycling after minimizing waste. It is a joint effort of the National Recycling Council and the College and University Recycling Council, and this year runs from January 18 to March 28.

During the RecycleMania recycling competition, participating schools report recycling and trash data which is then ranked according to four areas: 1) who collects the largest amount of recyclables per capita, 2) who collects the largest amount of total recyclables, 3) who collects the least amount of trash per capita and 4) who has the highest recycling rate. With each week's reports and rankings, schools may compare their results against other schools and use this to rally their campus communities to reduce waste and recycle more.

Washington and Lee is participating in the Waste Minimization component of RecycleMania that benchmarks the University's annual progress towards the goal or zero waste.

"RecycleMania is an occasion for individuals to think about the amount of waste they are responsible for creating and how they dispose of those materials," said Chris Wise, environmental management coordinator. "One way to better understand the importance of waste minimization and recycling is to think of the amount of embedded energy in the materials that are being send to the landfill instead of being recycled or, better yet, not being received at all."

Like other colleges and universities, W&L consumes large amounts of resources and generates lots of solid waste, hence the need to participate in RecycleMania. It provides a way to engage the campus community in recycling and waste reduction and presents waste reduction in terms students can understand. This familiarizes students with W&L's environmental programs and hopefully instills in students a lifelong habit. According to, "past surveys have indicated 80 percent of participating schools experienced a noticeable increase in recycling collection during RecycleMania."

RecycleMania began in 2001 when representatives from two universities decided that something had to be done to increase recycling in the residence and dining halls on their campuses. It gained momentum each year until 201 schools participated in 2007.

For more information, visit W&L's new campus sustainability Web site,, which provides information related to green initiatives across the University and resources for members of the W&L and local communities who would like to get involved.