Reduce, Reuse, RecycleMania

USF Ranks 2nd in Florida and 25th Nationwide in 2010 Competition.



By Daylina Miller


TAMPA, Fla. (April 19, 2010) – Just in time for Earth Day celebrations, the University of South Florida has been named one of the top schools in the nation in competition to see which school can reduce, reuse and recycle the most campus waste.


Earlier this year, USF entered the “Waste Minimization” contest in RecycleMania and placed second in Florida and 25th out of 199 universities in the United States, organizers were notified this week. In the “Waste Minimization” competition, schools are competed to see which one produced the least amount of municipal solid waste (including both recyclables and trash) per person.

USF produced 20.8 pounds per person.


“It's widely known that we all need to live more sustainably, and recycling is the simplest form of being green that anyone can get involved in,” said Joseph Michalsky, who coordinated USF’s participation in RecycleMania. Michalsky is a first-year computer science student and is a member of USF’s Student Environmental Association.


RecycleMania is a 10-week friendly competition between hundreds of universities in multiple countries, in which campuses attempt to minimize waste generation and maximize recycling participation. As part of the waste minimization competition, USF pledged to purchase office equipment with waste prevention in mind; work with vendors to reduce transportation packaging; and reuse and redistribute packing materials and inter-office envelopes.


Christian Wells, Director of USF’s Office of Sustainability, said that the vast majority of schools that have strong recycling programs are small, private, liberal arts colleges. So for USF - a large, public university – to be named in the top ranks is a major accomplishment.


 But while ranking high in the competition gives USF bragging rights, it is not the most important result of the university’s participation in RecycleMania, he noted.


“The importance has to do with raising awareness of the issue,” Wells said. “USF is often likened to a small city and the waste stream and recycling is very much like a small city.”


And like all cities, the road to more sustainable practices has not been an easy one for USF. Michalsky said that more needs to be done to lessen the university’s and students’ impact on the environment, but campus-wide green efforts such as RecycleMania have taken USF in the right direction.


“Recycling is something everyone can help with,” Michalsky said. “USF is huge. We're a significant chunk of the Tampa area. If USF can wholeheartedly demonstrate that it can operate sustainably, then it can influence the surrounding community to do the same, and perhaps improve local and state policy to promote sustainable living.”


RecyleMania is also part of a campus-wide effort to unify recycling efforts. Not all parts of the have recycling programs in place.


 “I hope this has the power to bring groups that don’t have the recycling programs into the fold with the university,” Wells said. “It shows university students really care about this deeply.”


Michalsky has high hopes for the university beyond the recycling efforts inspired by this year’s competition.


“As the university receives funding for solar panel research, I would like to see some of the panels currently not in use to be placed on top the Marshall Center,” Michalsky said. “Ideally, we will eventually have solar panels on every building. In addition to bottles, cans, and mixed paper, I would like to see a central location on campus where students can recycle other materials, such as batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs and cotton and denim.”


In 2008, President Genshaft signed the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment. USF's participation in the “Waste Minimization” category of the RecycleMania competition can be credited toward one of the tangible actions required as part of this commitment.


RecycleMania was launched in 2001 as a friendly challenge between Ohio University and Miami University to increase recycling on their campuses. The contest has expanded rapidly in nine years’ time from two schools in 2001 to 607 colleges and universities in 2010 spanning 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada.



The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.