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photo by Mico Mazza

RECYCLEMANIA IS AN annual international contest between post-secondary institutions around the world. Universities compete to be recognized as the one of the most sustainable universities globally. Campus Sustainability Office and the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa’s (SFUO) Sustainable Development Centre are running a waste-free pledge contest until March 31 for students to promote the event and encourage waste reduction.

The U of O has been ranked first among Canadian universities since Canada was included in the contest and their highest ranking has been 12 in the world. The contest aims to involve students by making them conscious about reusing, reducing, and recycling the waste they produce.

“You choose a period of time from a week up to two months, and you are pledging to not create [waste] that will end up in a landfill,” said Brigitte Morin, waste diversion coordinator at the Campus Sustainability Office. “You can still create recyclable material.”

Campus Sustainability Office and the SFUO Sustainable Development Centre have come together to raise awareness of the international contest. The waste-free pledge contest is just one of the ways students can get involved and win gift certificates.

“The gift certificates are for an organic food store or environmentally friendly restaurants of the winner’s choice,” said Morin. “The [Sustainable Development Centre] is also giving gift certificates to the [SFUO] businesses.”

Christine Bérubé, communications officer for the Sustainable Development Centre who pledged waste-free for two months, thinks high participation will help make a difference.

“Going waste-free for me is a full realization on how our society is built around disposable items and how there is a lack of acknowledgment why we create so much waste and where that waste is going,” said Bérubé. “It makes me imagine a world where everyone thinks about their waste and where everything is compostable or reusable in a  manner to protect futures generations and our planet.”

Recyclemania is an important contest for the U of O because of the university’s past success. Morin believes the university can continue to do well, but it will be hard to defend its top position in Canada in the main division.

“There are more and more Canadian universities participating so the competition is getting tighter,” said Morin. “The main category is total overall waste diversion—that means the percentage of your waste being diverted through another means, such as recycling and reusing. The institution with the highest waste diversion wins the overall

Last year the university produced 2,187 metric tonnes of waste and diverted 1,105 of it to recycling, which included composting and reusing items.

“It is incredible, the amount of waste that the average person can produce in one day,” said Morin. “Just trying to live waste-free for a day or a week makes a huge impact on the decisions you make going shopping. You begin to recognize that, ‘I do produce a lot of  waste.’ It makes people more aware.”

Students can go to the Sustainable Development Office (UCU215F) to pledge and learn how to live waste free.

—Christopher Radojewski