OHIO can justifiably talk trash to the competition after its top results in the Game Day Recycling Challenge, a friendly recycling competition among eight colleges and universities sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
OHIO placed first for per capita waste generation, meaning the least amount of waste (recycling and trash) produced per capita. OHIO also placed second in diversion rate, diverting more than 65 percent of game day solid waste from the landfill and into recycling or composting. All told, OHIO placed in the top half in four out of five categories for waste reduction and diversion, including third place for per capita recycling.
The competing schools, each representing a different athletic conference, reported their recycling and waste data from a designated home football game in October. Ohio University's chosen game was Oct. 24 vs. Kent State.
"OU did pretty good against some distinguished athletic programs that also have pretty good solid waste reforms in place," said Ed Newman, recycling and refuse manager.
The waste -- composed mostly of beverage containers, food packaging and paper goods like napkins -- was collected from Peden Stadium, the Green and White Club's alumni tailgate area by the Convocation Center, Pepsi Tailgreat Park, parking lots and ticket gates.
"When we put out recycling containers in addition to just trash containers, people have a tendency to use them," Newman laughed. "Imagine that!"
Just like after any home football game, the grounds department and local Boy Scout Troop 357 segregated the collected waste into dumpsters marked by category: plastics, cardboard, aluminum, glass. In this fashion, Newman was able to measure the waste by dumpster consumption and calculate rough per capita estimates to submit to the EPA.
"People consume more based on the play. If OHIO is having a winning season, like they are now, we see people have more consumption," Newman explained.
Eight schools were invited and chosen to participate in the inaugural Game Day Recycling Challenge. In addition to OHIO (Mid-American Conference), challenge schools included Auburn (Southeastern), Brigham Young (Mountain West), Colorado (Big 12), Harvard (Ivy League), Michigan (Big 10), North Carolina (Atlantic Coast) and West Virginia (Big East).
"I selected schools that had recycling programs in place, strong recycling coordinators and established relationships with the EPA," said Ron Vance, EPA program analyst and Game Day coordinator.
In its ability to compare each school's individual recycling program, the Game Day Recycling Challenge is similar to other recycling programs in which Ohio University participates, including the international RecycleMania competition, which Newman launched with colleagues at Miami University in 2001.
And just like RecycleMania, Vance would like to see the Game Day Recycling Challenge roll out on a bigger level next year, perhaps with the help of winning schools like Ohio University.
"We will definitely be expanding the challenge in 2010. It won't be by invitation only, and we are looking to partner with college athletics and the NCAA," Vance said. "There's lots of opportunity but the idea is to grow it small so we have a firm foundation."
Maybe the biggest win of all is bragging rights against the competition, Newman suggested. "The bottom line is to get more recycling going and have fun doing it," he said.