Creating the Extraordinary Student Experience

Recyclemania. Your Student Life for the week of 2/9/20 (Grad/Prof)

  • Tom Reeves Tom Reeves


I’m excited to talk to you about everyone’s favorite topic: recycling! February and March mark the annual intercollegiate competition known as Recyclemania. Ohio State has participated since 2003, and last year, we placed 5th overall in the total pounds recycled category, based on the total tons of recycling we diverted from landfills. Let’s hope that we beat last year’s total of over 629 tons of recycling diverted!

Recycling in the United States is not particularly straight-forward. Across the country, the biggest problem we face is contamination of the recycling stream. Contamination is when items that are not recyclable are mixed in with those than can be recycled. On all college campuses, and across most cities in the U.S., only certain items can be recycled. Those items vary by municipality. As such, it’s important for all of us to know what is and isn’t recyclable. 

Clean cans, paper, cardboard and bottle or jug-shaped plastics are the only items that you can recycle locally. Food and beverage containers, paper towels/napkins, as well as any plastic that is not shaped as a bottle or jug are NOT recyclable. In our region, it doesn’t matter if the plastic has the recycle symbol on it. If it’s not shaped like a bottle, it can’t be recycled here.

The good news is that on Ohio State’s campuses, the items accepted for recycling are among the most common across the country. And the same items you can recycle on campus can be recycled all over the City of Columbus.

People tend to recycle what they think is recyclable, assuming that someone along the way will remove anything that can’t be accepted. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. In fact, if there are too many non-recyclable items in a load, the recyclers will send the entire pick-up to the landfill. It’s important to think before you toss, and, when in doubt, put the item into the landfill trash. None of us wants to risk an entire load going to the landfill because we couldn’t remember if this yogurt container is recyclable (it’s not, even if it’s clean!).

Students often ask me what they can do to help with this problem. First, it’s important to know what’s recyclable. More importantly, you can help each other to know what’s recyclable. You can post this sign in your home as a reminder. If you have curbside recycling, use it. If you don’t, you can find a drop-off location through this online tool. Lastly, you can help each other by reminding your friends, family and fellow grad/prof students when you see them recycling improperly. Studies show that when someone makes a mistake and is corrected, that person is more likely to remember the right way to do something in the future. 

Questions can be directed to For more information about Recyclemania 2020 activities on campus, follow us on social media @greenbuckeyes 

Taking care of our environment is everyone’s responsibility. Let’s help each other—and the planet! 

Tom Reeves

Director, Energy Management and Sustainability
Office of Student Life


















Dave Isaacs