When LSA freshman Julian Tabron came back to Ann Arbor after spring break, he brought back a lot more than he took home. Along with his luggage, he returned with multiple bags full of recyclable materials in tow, collected during the week at his home in Detroit. He brought cardboard materials, plastic bottles, scraps of aluminum foil and more to compete in the University’s RecycleMania competition.

RecycleMania is a 10-week competition among more than 600 colleges and universities across the country to see which school can collect the largest amount of recyclables, the least amount of trash per capita, and have the highest recycling rate over the course of the competition. The competition began on Jan. 20 and will run until March 30.

“There are not that many places where you can recycle in Detroit, so I thought that I should go to the extreme limits and keep track of things that could be recycled in my home,” said Tabron, who is a Planet Blue student ambassador at the University. “I made a conscious effort to make sure I recycled everything I could possibly recycle in Ann Arbor.”

The collegiate competition started in 2001, and the University joined in 2006. Alison Richardson, the recycling coordinator with the University’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Office, said the campaign not only helps get the campus community energized about waste reduction and recycling, it also boosts awareness.

“Our goals are to increase the campus community’s waste reduction and awareness and to get people to stop and think a little more about their own waste habits and how their individual behaviors can help our efforts,” Richardson said.

Currently, the University’s recycling and reduction rates are in the top half of the results for each of the four separate categories. The University currently holds ninth place in total pounds of recyclables with a total of 408,355 pounds.

Richardson said in the last eight years the University has participated in the competition, it generally performs similarly to other participating Big 10 schools.

“We are always striving to reduce our waste and recycle more, so hopefully that will be reflected in this year’s final results,” Richardson said.

As a Planet Blue student ambassador, part of Tabron’s responsibilities are to inform students about RecycleMania and other environmentally friendly practices among students in resident halls.

“Normally, people feel like they don’t get anything out of recycling,” Tabron said. “(Planet Blue is) trying to promote recycling as it’s fun to do, it’s easy and not only are (students) helping the environment, but (they) are helping the community by making it more clean and safe.”

Tabron believes that recycling will become second nature for students eventually. Until then, however, the contest puts the environmental responsibility into students’ conscious thoughts.

“Since it’s a competition, people want to recycle more, but usually they don’t do that during the school year,” Tabron said.

Nicole Berg, a Plant Blue ambassador coordinator with the Graham Sustainability Institute, said the Planet Blue ambassadors in the residence halls throughout campus have been handing out information, posting flyers and hosting events to promote the competition.

“(RecycleMania) is a way to show that we are the Leaders and Best in every category, including sustainability,” Berg said.

Both Berg and Tabron believe that there is room for improvement among students on campus, and they hope to see continued interest in the competition through until the end.

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