More than 40 years after the first Earth Day celebration recycling is commonplace in many communities, yet a surprisingly high amount of recyclables still go in the trash. Many colleges and universities have extensive recycling collection and education programs, yet are challenged in motivating students and staff to participate. By framing recycling in competitive terms, RecycleMania seeks to tap school spirit as a motivator to reach students who may not otherwise respond to environmental messages. In the process, the program works to reinforce the practice of recycling at an age when many college students are forming the habits and values they will carry the rest of their lives.
RecycleMania can have a direct impact on participating campuses. Well over half of campuses surveyed in any given year report a noticeable increase in recycling that is attributable to the school’s participation. This fact is supported by results which show the overall recycling rate (recycling as a percentage of waste stream) for all schools combined typically increases from the first half of the competition to the second (in 2011, the rate increased 1.42% from 24.37% to 27.79%). Participation can also benefit colleges recycling programs by bringing attention and in many cases additional resources to expand their efforts. Surveys of campus program coordinators have shown as many as 75% responding that their participation in RecycleMania drew the attention of campus administrators. As many as one quarter of respondents have credited their participation in gaining additional support to expand collection and education efforts.