In their first year in the competition, Knox placed first in the Food Organics category of the RecycleMania competition.
“It kind of is a big deal even though for us, it’s kind of what we do on a normal basis,” junior Meryl Davis, president of Food Recovery Network, said.
Director of Campus Sustainability Debbie Steinberg said that Food Recovery Network (FRN) was pretty much the sole reason Knox placed so well in the category. The competition uses the EPA’s food recovery hierarchy, which puts feeding people just second to source reduction. FRN’s entire mission is feeding hungry people using the food left over from dining services.
“Food Recovery Network collects food from the caf that hasn’t gone out on the line yet and we donate that to three different places in Galesburg,” Davis said.
Recyclemania is a two-month long competition between colleges focusing on their recycling programs. The switch over the summer to Eagle Enterprises for recycling meant that Knox could get accurate weights of their recycling and compete in the 2018 event. This year, the event ran from Feb. 4 to March 31.
Steinberg was able to use the records FRN was already keeping to report to the competition. For the other divisions, Steinberg used weights and estimates from the dumpsters and roll-away containers used for waste management on campus.
The other categories for the competition are Per Capita Classic and Diversion. Knox placed 15th and 66th respectively in these categories. 170 schools participated. Steinberg described diversion as the total percentage of waste diverted from the landfill and per capita as the per person poundage of recycling.
“For our first year doing RecycleMania, I’m very happy with those results … not just the food organics definitely, but even the other ones are very promising,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg had to estimate the weights that went to the landfill because Knox only receives exact weights for the roll-away container used for the buildings that do not have dumpsters. The other buildings with dumpsters, like SMC, do not get exact weights, so Steinberg had to estimate based on volume. Therefore, there was a constant landfill-bound poundage each week that the reported number could never go beneath.
“As long as we have a consistent method for how we’re doing it, I think that’s good. That’s the only thing that I really found [to think about for next year], is that, other than what’s getting picked up by the roll-off container, we’re always going to have the same trash number,” Steinberg said.
Besides just reporting the numbers, the Office of Sustainability also ran promotional events to encourage students to recycle. Freshman Anelisa Gamiz helped with the events, which included a social media campaign of ‘recycling mugshots,’ a Snapchat filter and a recycling plinko trivia game.
The trivia game had the best success, which Steinberg said was good because students learned when they participated in it. Gamiz said she hopes to be involved next year and that she hopes they do more events like the plinko.
“[The plinko game] was cool because we got to educate people more, so more educational activities, things like that [should be there next year],” Gamiz said.
This year was meant to be used as a sort of benchmark for coming years. So, while Steinberg and Davis are excited by the first place, they also noted that placing the same could be difficult next year. Executive Chef Joe Peterson has been working to reduce the waste the kitchen produces, according to Davis. Less original waste means less of it can be sent to FRN’s partners in town.
“What food recovery’s goal is, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a bandaid solution to an issue that needs a long term solution … Food Recovery Network is something you want to see go away because you don’t want to see extra food being wasted, you want it to be automatically diverted or not have to be diverted at all,” Davis said.