Recycling Olympics promotes sustainability across student body


The students who participated in the inaugural Recycling Olympics hosted by the Office of Sustainability and the Physical Plant at USM competed not only against their fellow students but against the elements as well. This event was hosted in order to raise the profile of the Office of Sustainability on campus and to spread awareness and knowledge about recycling to the USM community.

The wind whipped across Weathersby Lawn on Wednesday, mitigating the efforts of students participating in recycling-themed events such as the catalog shot put, the tube javelin toss and the scrap- paper basket shoot. Even with the wind, the participants enjoyed themselves during the small break in their otherwise busy day.

Former SGA Senate Secretary Lakelyn Taylor also participated. She said that events like this one are great for getting the attention of students and getting them started on recycling.

“In the dorms where I am, it’s unfortunate that there’s not more of an opportunity for recycling,” she said.

USM Sustainability Coordinator Christina Foreman said the event provides an engaging manner of teaching students about recycling that makes it easier for them to recycle more in their daily lives.

“Just knowing the benefits doesn’t mean people will make that change,” she said.

Volunteers from Petal High School’s Future Business Leaders of America group ran all of the events except the timed sorting competition. Dakota Savage, high school senior and president of Petal High’s FBLA said the event was an opportunity to exercise their organization skills in the real world.

“It’s a way to come together with the community, with all different kinds of people to show respect and awareness for what our world is coming to,” Savage said.

USM students manning the trash sorting competition had laptops available for students to sign the pledge to not litter on campus. By the end of the event, there were an estimated 200 to 250 signatures.

“There were more people than I thought,” said Jessie Foreman, high school senior and vice president of Petal’s FBLA.

“When you see trash and pick it up, it doesn’t matter what it is or where it is. It makes a difference,” said junior music major Karsten Smith, who worked the trash sorting station. “We believe in leaving a place better than we find it.”

Assistant Director of Sustainability Haley McMinn said since recycling varies from place to place, those new to it can sometimes be confused by the guidelines.

“Recycling is universal, but it varies from place to place based on who will buy the goods that are collected,” she said. “In Mississippi, for instance, there’s nobody who buys glass. So while glass is recyclable, we don’t collect it on campus.”

The Recycling Olympics were the last event in an eight-week- long nationwide competition called RecycleMania. USM currently ranks at 153 out of 261 in the current competition.

McMinn said she is confident that by the end of the competition, they will have reached their goal of over 100,000 lbs of recycled items thanks to an influx of old yearbooks donated by organizations on campus.

McMinn also said that while they rank around the middle of the pack, the numbers are affected by location. Schools like Rutgers University and Stanford University, respectively ranked first and second, are located in areas that accept glass recycling. Some schools even have composting services, which count as well. As McMinn pointed out, glass and compost weigh a lot more than paper and cardboard, which could give some areas an advantage.

McMinn said that in the future, the Office of Sustainability will consider auditing their collection to examine the possibility of expanding to a separate stream collection service and a composting service, which could lead to more student employment opportunities.

“If separating it could bring our revenue up, we’d be able to create more student jobs and still make a difference on campus,” McMinn said. “Our student employees are some of the hardest workers on campus, some picking up thousands of pounds of recycling each day.”

Out of all the events, the most popular were the tube javelin throw, the catalog shot put and the timed sorting competition.

For more information about the RecycleMania program and the Office of Sustainability, call 601-266-6803.