Stony Brook University kicked off its participation in RecycleMania 2020, an international university recycling competition, in East Side Dining on Feb.12.
The festivities began with a 15-minute performance by the Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band.
Thirteen offices and clubs, as well as the Town of Brookhaven, CulinArt and Tidal Tees Apparel, tabled at the event. The kickoff educated students on green living and promoted participation in RecycleMania.
RecycleMania is an annual competition between universities and colleges in North America. Over the span of two months, schools will self-report weekly the amount of recycling and trash collected to an online system called ReTRAC. RecycleMania then ranks participants according to category. The competition strives to motivate students to recycle and reduce waste, promote on-campus recycling programs and encourage school administrations to track waste production so recycling measures can be improved.
“I’d like to see what I can do as a participant,” Michael Strenc, a junior environmental studies major attending the event, said. “I’m very pro-environment.”
The 8-week challenge is split into four subcategories tracking different types of recyclables, ranging and, in some categories, waste.
Stony Brook’s participation in RecycleMania 2020 marks a return to the competition for the first time since 2017. FSA Executive Director, Van Sullivan, made it a goal to participate during his first semester at the university in Spring 2019.
“I was associated when I worked at UMass Amherst for many years,” Sullivan said. “When I came down here, I said why aren’t we doing RecycleMania?”
The Department of Recycling & Resource Management, CulinArt and Faculty Student Association will work together every Monday from Feb. 2 to March 28 to report the previous week’s trash, food waste and recycling statistics to RecycleMania.
Tanya Sengupta, a project coordinator at the Office of Sustainability and a junior technological systems management, warned students to put their recyclables in the correct bins and not the trash.
“Please put [recyclables] nicely in the recycling bins,” Sengupta said. “Don’t just put it in the trash. Be careful about that.”
Since Nov. 28, 2018, the town of Stony Brook and SBU only accepts plastics one and two and are rejecting soiled cardboard and glass through curbside pickup to avoid contamination. Glass may still be recycled at drop-off locations throughout Brookhaven. Zachary Sicardi, recycling coordination aid at the Town of Brookhaven who was also at the event, educated attendees on how to recycle correctly.
Sicardi emphasized that recycling is not “a be all end all solution,” and that people should try to use reusable containers rather than disposable plastics.
“If we don’t take for granted the whole process that everything goes through to get to our hands, then we’ll be well on our way to zero waste,“ Sicardi said.
The Office of Sustainability offered reusable water bottles and bottle stickers to event attendees. The bottle stickers are used as part of their Fill It Forward Campaign, a project focused on eliminating single-use plastic bottles. Students scan the sticker each time they refill their water bottle, earning points that can be redeemed for prizes, like Wolfie Wallet gift cards and Stony Brook merchandise.
Stony Brook ranked 169 out of 190 overall in RecycleMania 2017, the last time it participated in the competition; and tied for third place with Saint Louis University out of 42 schools in an electronics waste special category the same year.
Several hundred schools will participate in RecycleMania 2020, including seven SUNYs like SUNY Binghamton and University at Buffalo. “We want to be number one in SUNY, and number one in the nation one day,” Sullivan said. But he emphasized that the most important goal remained to teach positive behaviors.
“We can sort of get you in the habit of taking that extra ten minutes to get your [reusable] water bottle and get your reusable container and maybe ask a restaurant why they don’t use the right stuff either,” Sullivan said. “That’s a gift you can take with you for the rest of your life.”