While March Madness usually refers to college basketball, another competition is underway on campuses this month called Recycle Mania. Eric Holthaus, the recycling coordinator at the University of Iowa, says the contest involves more than 200 colleges nationwide with the common goal of using less and recycling more.
Holthaus says most of the Iowa City campus is united in the effort. “It’s the main campus, it’s housing, it’s athletics,” Holthaus says. “We’ll look to involve the hospitals next year but we’re not at that point yet.” The competition started in early February and runs for eight weeks, through the end of March.
Holthaus explains how they calculate the figures. “Every single week from our campus, we report our single-stream recycling tonnage, we report our paper shredding and we report our trash,” Holthaus says. “That lets us get our recycling rate.” The U-I’s recycling rate is running about 35-percent, which has the campus in second place among Big Ten schools, behind only Purdue.
The goal is to reach 60-percent waste diversion at Iowa by 2020. Given the thousands of fans who frequently gather in Iowa City for athletic events, Holthaus says it was a natural fit to launch recycling efforts during men’s basketball games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “We pitted two student teams against each other to see who could collect the most recycling by the end of the game,” Holthaus says. “They were running around and they divvied up the stadium, trying to collect recycling. Those student teams collected about a thousand pounds and then the typical recycling effort that goes on at Carver ended up being about a thousand pounds, so, about a ton.”
Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa are also taking part in the competition. Other Iowa colleges participating include: Central, Grinnell, Loras and Wartburg.