‘RecycleMania’ a spirited, diverting race to zero waste

Berkeley students are wrapping up an intensive two-month recycling and waste-reduction blitz, spurred by the campus’s first-time participation in RecycleMania.

The spirited yet “friendly” contest — involving colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada — takes place over an eight-week period each spring, as students compete to lower the amount of material sent to landfill, raise consciousness and beat out their school rivals.

custodial staff

Custodial staff from Barrows, Sproul and A&E show their support for RecycleMania.

“By having a competitive spirit around this, we’re hoping people get excited,” says third-year student Tyler Carson, a staff assistant in Campus Recycling and Refuse Services.

During RecycleMania, each school reports its trash and diversion rates for the week, for posting online. During week 5, for instance, UC Berkeley diverted close to 24 percent of its total waste stream to recycling or compost (as opposed to landfill) — for an overall ranking of 160 out of 605.

Since the beginning of this year’s contest, in February, Berkeley students created a dedicated RecycleMania Facebook page and held numerous activities and events — including a video contest and an event to thank custodial staff for incorporating new compost and recycling bins into their duties. And the ASUC Sustainability Team offered fellow students a free hands-on class on how to build composters (both worm and non-worm).

“If people know how to build a composter, they’ll see how the whole energy circle is completing itself” — and be more likely to use this elegant method of turning their food scraps into a fertile soil builder, Carson predicts. “Instead of going to landfill, you use it again and again.”

He adds that the campus’s food scraps are trucked east to the Valley to break down, and that some of that compost is brought back for free distribution, at the Berkeley Marina, on the last Saturday of each month. “The best compost is a perfect mixture of sand, clay and silt,” he says, and UC Berkeley compost, in his book, is both high-quality and inspiring: “Maybe this is the stuff I put in the compost two months ago!”

RecycleMania, Carson says, “is a great opportunity to work toward UC Berkeley’s ‘zero-waste by 2020’ goal.”