New name, same game: Race to Waste, formerly Recylemania, in full swing this year

(Archive photo by Dené Dryden | Collegian Media Group)

The Race to Zero Waste, formerly Recyclemania, may have a new name, but the goal remains the same — to promote waste-reduction activities on college campuses.

The recycling competition changed its name in 2020 to “better reflect the purpose of the program,” according to its website.

“It’s more of an eye-catching, robust name,” said Bill Spiegel, project manager of Kansas State’s Race to Zero Waste event. “When people say ‘zero waste,’ people will try to go zero waste in all directions, not just in this eight-week period.”

Lane Lundeen, student body vice president and senior in environmental biology, said he believes the name change is to widen the spectrum of what the event is about.

“It’s not all about recycling,” Lundeen said. “It’s more of a holistic approach to cutting down waste here on campus.”

The Race to Zero Waste is an eight-week competition where over 100 colleges and universities from the United States and Canada compete against each other in various recycling categories.

The competition runs from Feb. 1 to Mar. 27.

The two main competitions are the number of pounds recycled per capita and diversion, which represents how much food and recyclable waste is “diverted” from the total waste generated from the university

Spiegel has run the event at K-State since 2011 and said he has experienced great success. K-State has ranked first in The Race to Zero Waste among Big 12 Conference schools in six of the last seven years.

As of March 7, K-State ranks 28th nationally at 5.283 pounds per capita. It ranks 47th in diversion, at a recycling rate of 30.446 percent.

Iowa State is the only other Big 12 school involved in the competition this year. K-State is ahead in per capita, but behind in diversion.

Race to Zero Waste updates its scoreboard weekly and results can be found on their website.

Spiegel says he enjoys the competition, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is spreading the word about waste reduction.

“To me, we’re all winners,” Spiegel said. “Even if you’re in the last place, you’re still a winner because you’re preventing things from entering the waste stream.”

Recycling committee chair and faculty advisor for the Students for Environmental Action, Gerry Snyder, said the success reflects well on K-State and shows that they care about sustainability and the planet.

But he said the recycling market has changed, and K-State needs to change with it.

“We’ve reached that plateau about recycling,” Snyder said. “It’s been an enduring love trying to get recycling going on campus. We’ve hit quite a few barriers along the way. Money has always been an issue, but now education is our top priority. We need more people to be aware of why they need to reduce their waste.”

In 2020, the competition was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Spiegel said he was disappointed, but he plans for the event to bounce back this year.

“We are still gonna do our best to pull it off,” Spiegel said. “Working together with social media, radio and word-of-mouth advertising, we’re gonna do the best we can to get the word out. We all work together as a team here at K-State.”

Lundeen said he had high hopes in 2020 until the pandemic hit, which he said felt like a step back. But he doesn’t want students to get complacent and hopes K-State can get their diversion and per capita numbers up.

Any recyclables are eligible for the event when participants place them in the blue one-stop-drops around campus and blue bins in the hallways inside campus buildings.

Students can also bring their recyclables to the K-State Recycling Center behind Weber Hall. It accepts glass and cardboard as well, but those must be deposited in specified bins.

More information on recycling bin locations around campus, in the dorms along with what can be recycled are on the K-State recycling guide website.