By Dan Kuzma
Manager, YSU Janitorial Services
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Youngstown State University is defending its statewide No. 1 ranking and 10th national ranking in the annual Campus Race to Zero Waste competition that’s underway at 400 universities and colleges nationwide.
The YSU record in the competition, formerly known as RecycleMania, is impressive. YSU has placed first in Ohio for nine consecutive years and 14 of the last 16, besting eight other universities including Ohio State, Akron, Kent State and Ohio University. The other two years, YSU placed second.
Nationally, YSU on average has ranked in the top 20 each of the last 16 years, including 10th last year, 13th in 2019 and eighth in 2006.
In last year’s competition, YSU achieved a recycling rate of 55% by recovering 170,000 pounds of recyclable material generated on campus. Between 2010 and 2020, the university diverted 8,309 tons of recyclable, reusable and compostable materials from landfills. That’s 1.4 million pounds.
This is YSU’s 17th year in Campus Race to Zero Waste, a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for university recycling programs managed by the National Wildlife Federation. This year’s competition began Jan. 31 and ends March 26.
YSU continues in the Get Caught Green-handed campaign, under which students will be rewarded for being caught recycling on campus.
This year’s campus effort focuses on reducing single-use plastic containers, highlighting that YSU has many water bottle refill stations across campus to eliminate purchasing bottles of water.
Random students who refill their reusable bottles or use reusable containers for hot beverages will receive free passes for select instructor-led kayak or stand up paddle board trips and lessons sponsored by YSU Campus Rec with funding from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The YSU recycling program was formed in 2000 in collaboration with the Mahoning County Solid Waste District, also known as the Green Team, and with the encouragement of ODNR.
Funded via grants from the Green Team, the program handles a variety of recyclable materials on campus. These include metal, glass and plastic beverage containers, mixed paper, publications and cardboard, as well as electronic waste, scrap metal and pallets. This unusual partnership has allowed YSU and the Green Team to be a model program.
The YSU recycling program also manages the Mahoning Valley Materials Exchange (MVME) as part of the grant agreement with the Green Team.
The MVME is a free service to Mahoning County industries that helps businesses to sustainably manage wastes through existing or unusual recycling markets.
The MVME also tracks the recycled tonnage generated within Mahoning County, contributing to an overall industrial recycling rate for the area. In 2021, Mahoning County businesses reported 256,000 tons of materials recycled through the exchange.
Other accomplishments of the YSU recycling program include:
• First in Ohio to implement a “dump and run” reuse collection for students moving out of residence halls.
• First in the state to compost food waste.
• Implemented tray-free service in dining halls to promote sustainability.
• Received grants to purchase 72 containers to expand recycling capabilities during campus events.
In addition, the program was ranked seventh in the nation on the Great Value Colleges’ list of “America’s 50 Top Colleges with the Best Recycling Programs.” YSU has also received national awards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
YSU is a 20-year U.S. EPA WasteWise partner, a program that helps organizations and businesses apply sustainable materials management practices to reduce various types of municipal and industrial wastes.
As a partner, YSU demonstrates waste reduction strategies, practices environmental stewardship, and incorporates sustainable materials management into the waste-handling processes on campus.