bins growing.jpg RecycleMania is celebrating its 15th year of challenging universities and students nationwide to improve their recycling programs. One of those participants is the University of California, Irvine, which is taking part in RecycleMania for its fifth year. In its first year of participation, UC Irvine took the opportunity to evaluate participating schools and set a series of benchmarks that it could return to measure its own performance yearlong. Since then, the university has placed in the top 10 every year, earning recognition in the Grand Champion and Gorilla Prize categories. The Grand Champion category is determined by calculating the amount each school recycled and the amount of waste reduced compared to its overall waste generation. The Gorilla Prize category calculates the amount of paper, cardboard, bottles and cans each school recycled, regardless of school population. During this year’s competition, UC Irvine will focus on continuing the same recycling and sustainability programs it has had in place all year, rather than creating a set of brand new events for the eight-week competition like many other schools do. In this way, UC Irvine is able to continue benchmarking its regular sustainability practices against other schools’ RecycleMania-specific programs and maintaining a strong recycling program even after the competition is over. However, this doesn’t mean UC Irvine isn’t doing anything different to get students involved in RecycleMania events. The university will put up posters, announce RecycleMania on electronic billboards across campus and put a table up on its ring mall to allow volunteers to speak with students about RecycleMania. Additionally, students will be given a chance to spin a wheel of fortune, answer a recycling question and then, if answered correctly, win a sustainable gift, such as a reusable water bottle or reusable dinnerware. According to Anne Krieghoff, UC Irvine’s Facilities Management Sustainability Manager, the university is particularly excited that RecycleMania is accepting food waste this year. “We are very proud of our food waste program. It started in 2010 and has grown to include all of our campus commons and restaurants,” Krieghoff explained. “We are able to keep an average of 500 tons of food waste out of landfills each year.” Outside of RecycleMania, UC Irvine’s sustainability and recycling programs have earned plenty of praise. The university has received numerous LEED Certifications over the past decade as well as AASHE stars and placement on the Sierra Club’s Top 10 Greenest Colleges for 2014.