Annual RecycleMania challenges Stanford faculty, staff and students to pitch less waste to landfills

Stanford is one of some 600 colleges and universities nationwide competing in the annual RecycleMania, which is designed to reduce waste sent to landfills and increase knowledge of steps faculty and staff can take to increase recycling.

L.A. Cicero Julie Muir

Julie Muir, recycling manager for Peninsula Sanitary Services Inc.

If you are tempted to throw that soda can in the trash rather than take the time to look for a recycling container, resist the urge.

For the next several months, the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management, Buildings & Grounds Maintenance and Peninsula Sanitary Service Inc. (PSSI) are keeping a close eye on how much waste Stanford faculty, staff and students divert to recycling.

Their observations are part of the annual RecycleMania, a competition that pits Stanford against other colleges and universities nationwide in a competition designed to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. The competition began Feb. 6 and ends April 4. Incentives are being offered to faculty and staff who pledge to participate.

Julie Muir is recycling manager for PSSI, the firm that oversees Stanford's recycling, composting and solid waste management. She answers questions about RecycleMania and about Stanford's recycling programs.


What is RecycleMania, and why does Stanford participate?

RecycleMania is a national competition among more than 600 college and university recycling programs designed to encourage waste reduction on campus. We have a longstanding and award-winning program at Stanford, and RecycleMania gives us a chance to see how we compare to other universities. It also gives us a chance to raise awareness of waste reduction issues and educate people about how to recycle. As part of the competition, schools report recycling and trash data to see, for instance, who collects the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest amount of total recyclables and the least amount of trash per capita.


What do Stanford's past results in the contest suggest to you about how we recycle and how we compare to our peers?

Our past results show that Stanford recycles a lot of pounds of recyclables! We tend to score high in the individual categories, like paper, cardboard, bottles and cans, and in the per capita recycling. At the same time, the results show that we throw a lot of trash away per person compared to other schools. This is the area we need to work on so that we can reduce the amount landfill materials.


How much of its waste does Stanford divert from landfills?

Over the last 30 years, we've increased waste diversion to 65 percent by recycling paper, bottles and cans, yard trimmings, food scraps, wood, and construction and demolition debris. We have also reduced the amount of waste sent to the landfill to its lowest levels in 2010. This is good news.


Could we do better?

Yes. We performed more than 20 waste audits in the last two years – that's where we actually sort through trash – and we found that about 25 percent of what we send to the landfill is recyclable bottles and cans and paper and paper packaging. About 30 percent is compostable. We can do much better.


Where does Stanford's waste and recycling go?

Our landfill waste goes to Newby Island landfill and our compostable materials go the Newby Island compost facility in San Jose on the Milpitas border. Our recyclables go to various locations in the South Bay.


What can faculty and staff members do to improve the university's recycling practices?

We make it really easy for everyone to recycle. To help, faculty and staff should use reusable cups, plates and utensils. Recycle all your plastic, metal and glass. We recycle all plastic containers except No. 6 polystyrene. Recycle all your paper and paper packaging, as well as cardboard boxes. Recycle all plastic bags, air pillows and bubble wrap in the paper recycling bins on campus. If you have composting available, then compost coffee grounds, food scraps and BPI [Biodegradable Products Institute] certified compostable serviceware.

During this year's campaign, Sustainable Stanford is holding a weekly raffle to recognize Stanford community members who do not put any recyclable items in the trash. Just fill out the weekly pledge and raffle entry form on the RecycleMania campaign website.