APSU is promoting recycling in a competitive way.

It began as an idea from APSU Sustainability Coordinator Olivia Herron after her success of promoting recycling as the sustainability coordinator at Miami University in Ohio. Then, it transformed into a decision for APSU to join the Campus Race to Zero Waste competition to compete against other universities. The competition began on Jan. 31 and will end on March 27, according to APSU News.

According to Olivia Herron, Austin Peay is participating in two categories: the Stephen K. Gaski Per Capita and Electronics Recycling.

Based on the Categories section of the Campus Race to Zero Waste website, colleges and universities under the Stephen K. Gaski Per Capita will focus on increasing recycling rate by collecting recyclables such as paper, cans, bottles and cardboards. During an eight-week period, APSU will track weights weekly based on the number of items being recycled.

As for Electronics Recycling, the university will track electronics, including computers, cell phones, tablets, and other devices, in one month during March. Community participation will be involved.

Olivia Herron led the Campus Race to Zero Waste competition at Miami University in 2020. She has a Bachelors of Strategic Communications, Sustainability and Food Systems & Food Studies and has a Master of Environmental Sciences with concentrations in land management and public policy. 

“I was excited to bring the CR2ZW competition to APSU after past success while serving as the Sustainability Coordinator at Miami University…” Herron said. “While we are only participating in a few categories this year, I hope to expand APSU’s participation in the future.”

RecycleMania, now called Campus Race to Zero Waste after summer 2020, was founded on January 2001 as a competition between Ohio University and Miami University, according to the Campus Race to Zero Waste website. The program was treated as a sports competition between the two universities as they compete to see which school recycles the most. After Miami University won, the competition grew, and other colleges and universities joined to compete to promote recycling on campuses.

Now, the competition has over 1,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada that participated, according to the history page. The colleges and universities compete to lower waste by tracking recyclables and waste and participating in four main categories: Diversion, Zero Waste, Stephen K. Gaski Per Capita, and Food Organics. Special categories, such as Electronics Recycling, are also included.

Herron stated that APSU’s goal for joining the competition is to “aim to increase student awareness of recycling on campus and to collect data for benchmarking future progress.”

Along with the help of Sustainability Outreach Intern Charles Livingston and Recycling and Waste Intern Garrett Rye, APSU will be promoting the competition and conducting waste audits to detect if recycling is improving or not.

“Waste audits are an inventory of what is correctly and incorrectly being placed in our recycling bins, and will allow very targeted messaging about how to reduce recycling contamination on campus,” Herron said.

To educate students about how to recycle on campus, the Campus Sustainability, along with the help of Student Government Association, created an Instagram account to post updates about the competition, show locations of the recycling bins, and share recycling tips. Olivia Herron hopes that students would reach out on social media to learn about recycling.

“We hope to use the Campus Sustainability Instagram (@sustainabilityAPSU) to reach students about recycling locations, competition updates, and recycling tips,” Herron said. “We are also exploring other options like signage in the buildings. We are open to student input on how to make recycling more accessible.”

As part of the Electronics Recycling, Austin Peay State University partnered with Clarksville-Montgomery County Green Certification Program to host an electronics recycling event. The event will take place March 19 at 12-3 p.m. on Veteran’s Plaza on 350 Pageant Lane in Clarksville, Tennessee. The event is open for the Clarksville community to recycle electronics and secure online shredding. The recycled electronics will be counted towards APSU’s recycling weight for the Electronics Recycling category.

“This is a great opportunity to spring clean your home office and responsibly dispose of hard to recycle items,” Herron said.

If students, faculty, and the community have questions about the event, they can call Green Certification Program Manager Carlye Sommers at 931-245-1867 or email at cmsommers@mcgtn.net.

APSU has multi-streaming recycling bins across campus. The categories for the bins are cardboard, aluminum, and plastic. According to the 2019-2020 Recycling Statistics on the Recycling page of APSU Sustainability, APSU has recycled 121,000 pounds of cardboard, 31,000 pounds of newsprint, and 52,000 pounds of officer paper.

Students and faculty can look at what they should and should not recycle and learn about the location of the recycling bins at apsu.edu/sustainability/recycling.