Ready, set, recycle!

Before tossing this issue of the Vanguard into the trash, you should know that less than a third of Portland State’s half-million pounds of monthly waste gets recycled. PSU Recycles! has been spearheading the university’s recycling and sustainability efforts for the past three and a half years, and has decided to register PSU in the 2006 RecycleMania competition.

“It’s a great opportunity to show all those schools around the country that PSU takes [recycling] seriously,” said Kim Dinan, the Resource Management Coordinator for PSU Recycles!. She feels confident about our current recycling rate and our ability to increase it. “We’re at about 30 percent. There are a lot of other schools that fall around the same percentage,” she said.

Running for ten weeks, from Jan. 29 until April 8, RecycleMania is a competition to see which institution can collect the largest amount of recyclables, produce the least amount of trash, and have the highest recycling rate. The RecycleMania website describes its primary goal: “to increase student awareness of campus recycling and waste minimization.” With 93 universities competing this year, the competition will be tough. Locally, PSU is set to spar with Washington State University, Oregon State University and Portland Community College (Rock Creek).

Compared with last years RecycleMania results, PSU’s current recycle rate of 30 percent is a strong showing. Other schools’ scores dipped as low as 14 percent, with the championship going to Miami State University at 44 percent.

“I think we do have a good shot at it,” Dinan said. “The goal that we would absolutely love to achieve is 50 percent.”

Dinan sees RecycleMania as a great opportunity for improvement. “It’s going to be something that we’ll bring back every year,” she said. “We want people to start seeing RecycleMania and associate it with what they’re throwing in the garbage.”

PSU Recycles! has steadily been increasing awareness and sustainability. This fall, they helped involve on-campus students by purchasing recycling bins and distributing brochures for all of the dorm rooms on campus. They also take part in training Resident Assistants.

Waste audits show that residence halls are often huge contributors of campus waste, nearly half of which may be recyclable. Combined with dining facilities such as in the Ondine or the Smith Memorial Student Union, they can produce 30 to 70 percent of a university’s total waste product.

Being mindful of how much trash one generates is equally important to recycling, and can make a huge difference in waste rates. Dinan said that a common problem is that “people start talking about recycling and stop thinking about ways they can reduce waste in the first place.”

PSU’s Sustainability Coordinator, Dresden Skees-Gregory concurs. “It’s almost as important as recycling itself,” she said.

Both coordinators agree that the management and recycling of paper waste is one of the most significant recycling issues on campus. “If we had to ask people to focus on one thing, it would be paper,” Dinan said. Portland State recycles about 45 tons of paper every month, but there is plenty that still goes to waste. One simple thing the average student can do is purchase a reusable mug for coffee instead of consuming one of the 1,400 un-recyclable paper cups used each day on campus.

Skees-Gregory describes how she’s been working with a student group called Advocates for Responsible Solutions to alleviate some of the paper problem. “[They] came to us pointing out just how much paper the campus is using and asking for our help in getting a policy established to reduce the amount that we use and to make what we do use recycled content. They’ve been very successful so far.”

“We’ve been working with [PSU] departments that are excited about participating. A lot of them have switched to the 35 percent or 100 percent recycled content paper.”

Dinan points out that these university departments also participate by donating to PSU Reuses, a sub-program of PSU Recycles!. “No one on this whole campus should ever buy a binder again,” she said. “Departments around campus donate all kinds of unwanted office supplies.”

“People can come and donate or take binders, desk organizers, reams of paper, pens, pencils and rulers, everything for free.” These are available during open office hours once a week on Tuesdays in room V24 in the basement of the Portland Center for Advanced Technology building. For more information about RecycleMania, go to