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The recycling mania at Penn has officially begun.

From February 5 through March 31, Penn will compete in the 2012 RecycleMania Tournament, a recycling competition held annually between over 600 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.

Penn’s student Eco-Reps are the main voices of the competition on campus and will be promoting it over the course of the next eight weeks.


Coming off last year’s final University-wide recycling rate of 28.94 percent — about one percent off the target goal of 30 percent — Penn is now aiming for 32 percent.

“It was a stretch goal — we wanted to challenge ourselves,” Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Dan Garofalo said in reference to falling short of last year’s target. “We’re confident that we’re always going to have an improvement because of our efforts, but also because of our students.”

This year, however, recycling efforts will not be limited to students alone. According to Garofalo, everyone on campus is getting involved, including the various schools and the administrative centers.

For example, within the next few weeks, the School of Engineering and Applied Science will expand its battery and computer recycling program, Garofalo said.

Additionally, the Perelman School of Medicine will also offer a textbook-recycling program at the Biomedical Research Building.

“At the core of RecycleMania, a lot of what we’re doing is just raising awareness about what’s recyclable on campus and how little is trash anymore,” said Julian Goresko, Sustainability Student Outreach Associate for the Green Campus Partnership. “In addition to having social events, at least half of the competition is our effort in just teaching people about recycling.”

Aside from individual events that will be hosted by college houses, the Eco-Reps also plan to bring about new initiatives, such as “upcycling” with the company TerraCycle.

TerraCycle takes what are normally non-recyclable materials like juice pouches and makes them into bags and other products.

For RecycleMania participants, the challenge will be to maintain student awareness throughout the event.

“A lot of people may have heard about it, but they may not be aware of its length,” said College sophomore Shannon Macika, Riepe College House’s Eco-Reps House Leader.

Some houses like Gregory College House will feature posters that keep track of how much recycling has been done.

“Every week or every two weeks we’ll look at the recycling bins. We’ll do a spot check to see how we’re doing well like the percentage of recycling in trash,” said Engineering junior Rachel Liu, Gregory College House Eco-Reps House Leader. “Hopefully the awareness for RecycleMania and recycling in general will be increased.”

Despite the publicity surrounding the upcoming events, however, some Penn students remain largely unaware of RecycleMania.

College sophomore Olivia Wheeling said she has “only vaguely” heard about the project.

She said an event like RecycleMania would not be likely to cause her to change her recycling habits.

“I already do what I can,” she said. “If I started to do more I’d be militantly watching what’s recyclable and what’s not.”

For Garofalo, the end goal of RecycleMania does not center around winning the competition.

“The idea is simply to get people’s enthusiasm together and then hopefully they make some behavior changes,” he said.

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