Determine Data Tracking System

Determine Data Tracking System

Take the time early on to figure out how and in what form you will get the recycling and trash measurements you’ll be reporting to RecycleMania. By developing a plan and making arrangements with the people you will get numbers from in advance, you can avoid last minute confusion and difficulty when the time comes to submit your numbers.  If choosing to participate in the formal competition, coordinators should read and be familiar with the official Tracking Standards listed under the Rules section. Additional answers to questions about tracking data can be found in the FAQ.

Below are some steps to take to prepare before the competition starts.

What data exists and who has it?

Determine who is in charge of recycling and trash on campus, find out what data they have and work out an arrangement to receive the information on a regular weekly basis. Frequently, multiple departments or staff may be responsible for different aspects of the waste stream. Likely departments you will have to contact include: facilities or physical plant, environmental health and safety, housing, grounds, custodial, athletics, student union or dining services. In some cases these departments may coordinate the actual collection activity or they may manage a contract with a private collection company.

In some cases the people in charge of recycling and trash have an existing arrangement to get actual weights for whatever materials they oversee, but this is not automatic. If they do have the weight data, ask them how frequently they receive it. They may get the information every day as collection routes are done, or it may be once a week, once a month, or sporadically depending on when bins are emptied. Different materials may have different tracking arrangements.

What if no one has the data?

You may find there is no system in place to track recycling or trash. A private service provider (“hauler”) may collect on and off-campus material on the same route and not have a way to separate the weights for each. They may simply not have a scale to weigh the material collected. The next step is to work with whoever manages the collection activity to see if they will work with you to come up with a temporary tracking arrangement. If they do have the data, but only report it once a month with the regular billing, negotiate to see if they are willing to provide the weight numbers informally each week. If the material is not normally weighed, are they willing to make a special arrangement just during RecycleMania to weigh it?

Plan B: Volume to Weight estimates.

If it is not possible to get actual weights, you may still be able to generate reasonably accurate numbers by doing volume-to-weight conversions. To do this, you will need to be able to track the volume of material that is collected. This process can be time consuming and prove impractical for your situation, in which case skip down to Plan C.

While schools choosing to participate outside the outside of the formal ranked competition have flexibility to determine total volume by simply multiplying the number of bins versus their capacity, schools signing up for the official competition must be able to track the volume of actual material collected. In other words, they must be able to say how many bins where emptied and approximately how full they were.  For smaller carts you can pop the lids on a few and get a feel for how full they are on average and use this to multiply across all carts. For larger dumpsters, a visual inspection of each is necessary to mark down are they ¼ full, ½ full, ¾ full or completely full. You’ll also need to determine their actual capacity so that you can calculate the number of bins vs. capacity vs. how full they are to arrive at a total capacity.

Once you have determined the total volume capacity, you will need to use an average per yard or per gallon weight to use as a multiplier in converting it to weight estimate. Volume to weight conversion multipliers can be reasonably accurate or way off depending on how they are determined. The first and best option is to see if a special arrangement can be made to way some of the bins in advance to get some sample weights from which to average. Collection haulers not willing to weigh every week may nonetheless be willing to do a dedicated campus route on one or two occasions to get a campus-specific weight. If so, be sure to tag along and measure how many dumpsters are emptied on that route and how full they are so that you can assign the number of gallons or yards that sample weight represents. If recyclable materials are collected in bags, can you work out a way to weigh 30 or 40 bags to get an average weight and then track the number of bags taken out each week going forward?

If you are not able to generate your own campus-specific sample weights as the basis for creating multipliers, schools may use the non-campus specific averages gathered by RecycleMania by clicking here. Note: these RecycleMania multipliers are loosely approximate and may not accurately reflect the actual weight of materials on a particular campus. Coordinators should use their judgment in deciding whether their actual materials are likely lighter or heavier and make adjustments as necessary. RecycleMania rules require schools to use a good faith best judgment in reporting all numbers even when relying on official RecycleMania multipliers.

Working with Haulers

Many haulers are flexible in helping schools determine weights. Some are not. You may be asking them to make significant changes beyond what they are paid to do in their contract. Here are a couple points to keep in mind when approaching them for assistance. First, make contact with the college official who coordinates the contract with the company to get their assistance. If your request is going to require additional work on their part, be willing to offer something in return such as listing the company as a sponsor on any promotional posters or t-shirts you create. If the campus newspaper writes a story about the program, be sure to let them know how the company helped. Long term, suggest to the campus department managing the contract that future versions include language requiring trash and recycling be weighed and report. Weight data can ultimately help recycling improve on campus year round.

Plan C: Participate outside the formal competition

If you are finding the logistics of gathering data is simply too difficult or time consuming, this should not be a barrier to still participating in RecycleMania. After all, the ultimate purpose is to raise awareness and expand recycling, not chased numbers.  You can opt out of the formally ranked competition while still submitting loose estimates based on best guesses and be able to informally compare yourself against your peers on other campuses. To pursue this option, simply indicate this on the Profile information Survey when registering. If you need to change this after registering, please contact the Helpline for assistance.

If you’ve hit a wall in trying to collect the campus’s data, contact the Helpline at (843) 278 7686 or helpline@recyclemaniacs.org to see if program staff can offer further suggestions that can help your school still participate.