In light of the 2020 international RecycleMania competition, a RecycleMania Student Planning Committee was established in the fall of 2019 to facilitate student leadership and community involvement in the RecycleMania competition. The student-majority We Mean Green Fund Committee approved funding for UNT to participate in the national RecycleMania competition again, wherein UNT will compete against other universities to reduce waste on campus.

RecycleMania is an annual competition in which post-secondary institutions compete to increase recycling efforts on their campus and educate students, faculty, and staff about waste reduction and correct recycling procedures. The competition spans for eight weeks, from February 2nd to March 28th, and UNT will be competing in the Stephen K. Gaski Per Capita RecycleMania challenge. Each week, the weights of recycled paper, cardboard, and bottles/cans will be measured on campus and reported to the official RecycleMania Tournament who will calculate lbs. recycled per capita along with UNT’s ranking among other competitors. The RecycleMania Student Planning Committee’s approach to the rankings is different this year; rather than focusing only on increasing recycling efforts on campus, the committee is unveiling an eight-week campaign known as the “8’R’s of Reducing Waste” with intentions of decreasing total waste production from the top down. With the Eight R’s of Reducing Waste” in mind, the RecycleMania Student Planning Committee aims to reduce the need to recycle and instead replace wasteful habits with resourceful ones.

The committee aims to foster peer-to-peer recycling education and student leadership while engaging students, staff, and faculty on campus to make waste reduction and recycling both accessible and meaningful to all. Their goal is to empower others to decrease personal waste production and consumption and transfer knowledge of environmentally sustainable practices in diverse, practical ways that UNT students, staff, and faculty can use on campus and carry on into their future. 

The first week of the eight-week competition will encourage UNT community members to “Rethink their choices” through an invitation to a “Bring Your Own Lunch” zero waste shindig encouraging everyone to use reusable dishware and utensils and think creatively about minimizing waste in typical day-to-day actions.

The second week of the competition focuses on Refusing single-use items,” and will feature a community service opportunity for UNT students, staff, and faculty volunteers to engage in a UNT Campus Litter Cleanup to collect litter from areas surrounding campus and witness the effects of waste on our environment, inspiring people to refuse unnecessary materials when possible.  

The third week of the competition is focused on educating UNT about correct recycling procedures in Denton and motivating students, staff, and faculty to “Reduce their consumption” and waste production through educational tours of the UNT and Denton Recycling Facilities.

The fourth week of the RecycleMania competition will feature “Reuse what you can” as its theme, and the RecycleMania Student Planning Committee will host a UNT Merchandise Swap. Students, staff, and faculty will have the opportunity to donate their clean, gently-used or new UNT merch that no longer brings joy to them so that others can give them new life. This reuse event will allow the UNT community to come together and trade their UNT shirts, hats, pants, and other permitted swag to prevent unused items from finding their way to the landfill during spring cleaning. All UNT students, staff, and faculty are encouraged to participate in the swap.

The fifth week of the competition will feature “Repair before you replace” as its theme, and along-side the UNT Transportation Services and UNT Police Department, the committee will host a Bike Repair Fair to empower UNT community members to repair their bikes. The event will highlight the local resources available to the UNT community for biking, but also illustrate the connection between maintaining bikes and preventing bikes from deteriorating and eventually reaching the landfill.

During the sixth week of the competition, students will be on spring break, but the weekly “R,” “Refurbish old stuff” will be featured on social media to keep the education going about extending the life of our things and preventing items from meeting the landfill.  

The seventh week of RecycleMania will feature a “Repurpose items creatively” experiment called the “#WasteJarUNT Challenge.” Led by City of Denton Sustainability Education Coordinator Vanessa Ellison, event attendees will learn what they can and cannot recycle and take on the task of tracking their trash for a day or a week. Attendees will be given a repurposed, old jar to collect their trash and recycled waste to observe their personal discarded items and determine ways to limit their use of unrecyclable materials. The challenge is meant to spur personal reflection and focuses on repurposing individual thinking to find accessible and meaningful ways for us to make changes in our waste-making habits.

The eighth week of the competition builds up to “Recycle Right” as RecycleMania’s final weekly “R” of reducing waste; the previous seven weeks of RecycleMania identified how to reduce waste before having to choose between the trash and recycling bins. As the culminating RecycleMania event, the RecycleMania Student Planning Committee will host a recycling audit called Recycle Right on the Library Mall to identify if UNT recycling receptacles are used appropriately and showcase examples of recycling contamination to educate about the right ways to recycle. This public educational outreach event is intended to get UNT students, staff, and faculty talking about how to recycle right. Depending on results, this event may pinpoint areas for more robust educational recycling campaigns on campus.

Throughout the eight weeks of RecycleMania, the We Mean Green Fund will host a Plastic Bag Recycling Competition wherein freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, grad students, and staff/faculty will compete to recycle the most plastic bags at the designated drop-off station. People may bring their clean, dry, empty, food-free plastic bags to the drop-off station located on the first floor of the Student Union by the Corner Store. This new component of RecycleMania was introduced for the first time in 2020 because plastic film and plastic bags cannot be recycled in the usual campus recycling receptacles; plastic bags are notoriously difficult items to recycle and must be recycled in a different stream. 

Many partnerships are necessary for RecycleMania to come alive on the UNT campus. The UNT We Mean Green Fund, Facilities Department, Transportation Services, Student Union, and Police Department, along with local partnerships with the City of Denton Sustainability Department and more, all contribute directly to making RecycleMania a success.

Each week, RecycleMania will feature social media challenges and incentives, waste reduction tips and events focused on one of the “8 R's of Reducing Waste.” Follow @untWMGF on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for RecycleMania updates.

Volunteers will be an essential aspect of RecycleMania in the spring of 2020! Those interested in assisting with recycling efforts on campus, or those who have a general interest in learning about local recycling should join the RecycleMania Volunteer Mailing List on the UNT We Mean Green Fund website. Additionally, this is an excellent opportunity for students to complete volunteer hour obligations for student organizations or degree plans which have a service requirement. Students who contribute support to the RecycleMania cause can track their service hours towards earning the Environmental Volunteerism Graduation Cord!

Are you ready to Mean Green during RecycleMania 2020?