UMass Amherst Finishes 3rd in National RecycleMania Contest

Sam the Minuteman recycles in the Blue Wall
Sam the Minuteman recycles in the Blue Wall

AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst has won third place for Food Service Organics in the RecycleMania Tournament, which promotes waste reduction through friendly competition between colleges and universities.

Over the course of eight weeks the university tracked and weighed its bottles, cans, paper, cardboard, trash and food waste—with the final recovery total for recyclables and compostables representing 903 metric tons of CO2 reduction.

John Pepi, campus manager of solid waste, notes that the university has been steadily working to reduce waste on campus.

“This achievement reflects the collaborative efforts that have occurred over the last few years. We have made steady improvements in how recycling requirements are communicated and publicized, particularly in the Residential Life.”

Pepi explains that it is instructive to compare competition results among universities with similar profiles. “We were third of 167 schools in food waste composting per capita, but the top two finishers are much smaller and each developed only estimates, while UMass provided weight-based data.”

UMass Amherst also placed 26th out of 208 schools in the Grand Champion category with a 54 percent recycling rate—surpassed by only four universities of a similar size that documented their results with actual weights verses estimates. Participation in the RecycleMania contest was supported by multiple departments including the Office of Waste Management, Residential Life, and Facilities and Campus Services’ sustainability manager’s team. RecycleMania is a nonprofit whose board of directors is made up of participating colleges and universities.

UMass Amherst composts 1,400 tons of food waste per year and has twice earned high honors in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Game Day Challenge. The campus boasts a variety of waste reduction initiatives including New2U, a program that collects unwanted items during move-out for a tag sale during move-in, as well as a green office program that encourages both waste and energy reduction. UMassAmherst also offers 25 majors and 15 graduate programs focused on sustainability.