Recyclemania Reduction Rant

It’s mid-March, which means it’s time for the ultimate collegiate competition. No, not the NCAA Tournament, RecycleMania!

That also means it’s time for my annual RecycleMania rant! The college recycling competition, which began 2001 under the auspices of the National Recycling Coalition, is generally a very positive undertaking. But, the “targeted materials” category of “food service organics” leaves much to be desired.

In that category, the school that uses the most food waste and compostable plates/cups wins. Sure, that college is segregating and composting that waste, which is great. Yet wouldn’t the better message be to try to reduce the amount of food being tossed, whether it’s into the trash or a compost bin?

photo by canadianfamily via creative commonsMy cynical side thinks this setup exists because there’s money to be made hauling off materials, recyclable or otherwise. But waste haulers don’t benefit when folks reduce their waste. For institutional customers like colleges, though, there’s money (and maybe a planet) to be saved. 

My practical side thinks the ‘most compost wins’ thing happens because it’s intuitive to count how much of something there is, not how little exists. Plus, I’m sure the organizers want to reward students for segregating their compostable waste from the rest of the trash. But I think it’s time to shoot higher, especially at progressive places like colleges and universities.

RecycleMania does have a waste minimization category, but just for general trash. Why not extend that idea to food waste, er…food service organics?

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