Northwestern competes in Big Ten recycling competition

Rebecca Savransky, Assistant Campus Editor

In an effort to increase campus-wide recycling, Northwestern’s sustainability organization, Eco-Reps, is partnering with other Big Ten schools for a plastic bag recycling competition.

This is the first year a Big Ten sustainability competition is taking place, said Weinberg senior Wesley Lien, Associated Student Government associate vice president for sustainability. The event, which started Monday and runs through Wednesday, will involve a face off against at least three of the 12 participating schools.

Over the course of the three-day event, students are encouraged to bring their extra plastic bags to NU Eco-Reps, who will have a table set up on Norris University Center’s ground floor. The collected bags will then be weighed and compared with other schools’ collections.

“The idea just sort of puts us at a disadvantage because we have a smaller student body,” said Weinberg junior Mike Ziebel, a member of Northwestern Eco-Reps.

Lien said he was contacted by someone from Ohio State University to organize the plastic bag recycling competition.

“Originally, I didn’t know if this would be a good idea because it’s a fresh event and not coordinated with anything else Northwestern does,” he said. “It’s a little tricky getting this set up, but Eco-Reps were able to roll it into some of their other programming.”

Lien said he reached out to Northwestern Eco-Reps to spearhead the effort because of the group’s campus reach.

Northwestern Eco-Reps is also encouraging students to turn in electronic waste and batteries although the competition is only measuring the University’s plastic bag collection. To promote bag recycling, the first 25 individuals to donate will receive a reusable bag.

Although this is the first inter-school plastic bag recycling competition, there have been similar initiatives in the past to facilitate proper plastic bag disposal, Ziebel said. Bins have been set up on the Norris ground floor for students to recycle their plastic bags since the beginning of the academic year, he said. Once the bins are full, they are taken to Whole Foods Market to be recycled.

The campaign to increase recycling awareness has been successful so far, Ziebel said. However, he hopes the competition will spur greater involvement from the student body.

“Plastic bags are just something that’s really hard to recycle and that people go through a lot of,” Ziebel said. “Just by offering something that Northwestern wasn’t previously offering can make an impact that people are using on a daily basis that helps reduce the carbon footprint of Northwestern students.”

Although the event will likely drive participation in the NU recycling effort, Lien said follow-up events will be necessary to maintain awareness. Lien said several other environmental campaigns will take place during the rest of the year, which will also likely spur increased involvement.

Ziebel said he hopes students will gain a better grasp on what items are recyclable through the competition and engage more in the NU recycling effort.

“Our main goal is just to increase student awareness of what they can recycle here at Northwestern,” Ziebel said. “I think most students would know they can recycle plastic bottles and paper and glass, but I think these things are things that are really good to recycle and dispose of properly that most students don’t know about. So our main hope is that by letting students know these resources are available, that they’ll be more aware and recycle more.”

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