BCC scores well in waste reduction, recycling competition

Berkshire Community College recently finished first among state schools and third in the country in the diversion category of a national collegiate recycling competition.

PITTSFIELD — When it comes to recycling, Berkshire Community College this year is a champ.

BCC recently finished first in Massachusetts and third in the United States in the diversion category of RecycleMania, a waste reduction and recycling competition among colleges and universities that has taken place since 2001. BCC finished with a recycling rate of 80.9 percent, lower than only overall category winner the College of Staten Island, with 94.9 percent, and runner-up Loyola Marymount, at 86.7 percent.

In the diversion category, BCC finished ahead of several state schools, including Harvard University, which finished 56th, with a recycling rate of 43.4 percent. But Harvard finished third in the total recycling category, with 1,345,719 pounds of material recycled, one of five so-called bragging rights categories that were included in the competition. BCC finished 184th out of the 229 participants in total recycling, with 33,461 pounds. UMass-Amherst finished ninth overall in total recycling and 32nd in the diversion category.

National rankings were compiled in three categories: diversion, food organic and per capita classic.

Waste diversion rates represent the amount of waste that is diverted from a landfill for recycling. The process begins with a waste audit. It is one of the known performance indicators, or KPIs, that are used to determine a successful recycling program.

Managed by Keep America Beautiful, this year's RecycleMania tournament featured teams from 300 schools located in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Canada, which have a combined enrollment of 3.6 million students. Participants ranged from major colleges and universities to small private schools, community colleges and even an academic medical center.

The participants were ranked in various categories according to how much recycling and food waste they were able divert from landfills over a two-month period in February and March.

Between the Feb. 4 kickoff and the final recycling weigh-in March 31, all the schools combined recycled or composted 68.6 million pounds of waste, preventing the release of 94,152 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to preventing the annual emissions from 20,160 cars, according to BCCS.

"RecycleMania participants are the next generation of recycling industry leaders, and the work that they do during the competition is a springboard into their lifelong commitment to recycling," said Stacy Wheeler, the president of RecycleMania, an organization that includes a board of directors made up of recycling and sustainability managers from participating universities.

"For eight weeks, these student groups dedicate their time to educate their campus on the importance of recycling and do so in an engaging, creative and resourceful ways," she said.

Decade of performance

BCC has competed in the RecycleMania competition for 10 years, and has improved its waste diversion rate by 42.79 percent since 2009, with a goal of zero waste by 2020.

At BCC, the green team coordinates the college's annual participation in RecycleMania. Team members include volunteer faculty, staff, students and some community members.

"Everyone is involved because they believe in this," said Chris Laney, BCC's interim dean of humanities and who is also a green team member. "As part of the shift to composting, our cafeteria director switched to compostable utensils and dinnerware — despite the increased cost."

Last year, BCC's director of procurement noticed that the recycling bins that had been purchased for renovated classroom building were being discontinued, so he purchased all the remaining bins in stock, giving the college enough containers to cover the whole campus.

There are several members of the facilities staff on the green team, and they are central to everything that has happened," Laney said. "Our success is the direct result of this team effort."

Complete category results for the entire RecycleMania competition can be can be found at recyclemania.org. They include a breakout that shows how schools performed by athletic conference, institution size, state and other groupings. The national winners of each category are recognized with an award made from recycled materials.