RecycleMania 2012: Turning Commitment to Sustainability Into Competition to Recycle

A recycling competition between hundreds of North American colleges helps to stem landfill waste

In 2010, Americans generated around 250 million tons of waste. Over 85 million tons of it was recycled and composted—about a 34 percent recycling rate. On average, each individual American generates 4.5 pounds of trash per day and recycles or composts 1.5 pounds of it. Not bad, but it should be better.

Many Americans have no idea where their trash ends up. Many communities ship their garbage to landfills in other states. But rising fuel costs and increasing development is threatening that solution.

"The public doesn’t see this as a crisis yet, but it really could be," said Jim Bunchuck, a former president of the Long Island Sanitation Officials Association and the current solid waste coordinator of the Town of Southold, Long Island, a region of metropolitan New York City that sends around 1.1 million tons—30 percent of its total waste—to out-of-state waste facilities and landfills.

"We need more companies engaged in the conversion of recyclables too, instead of shipping them out," said Bunchuck.


ARAMARK, a Philadelphia-based company that provides food services and facilities management to universities, school districts, stadiums, arenas, health care institutions and businesses around the world, has helped to answer his call.

Thanks to RecycleMania 2012, a national competition involving 605 North American colleges and universities—more than 20 percent of which are ARAMARK campus partners—over 19 million pounds of waste were recycled and did not enter landfills. That's like removing more than 7,800 cars from the road, the equivalent of consumption savings of more than 3,500 households.

"Our campus partners continue to impress us with their passion for maintaining environmentally-friendly facilities," said Christopher Stemen, Vice President of Sustainability, ARAMARK Higher Education. He noted the firm's "continued commitment to minimizing environmental impact in the communities where we live and work," which includes providing campus partners with resources and tools that support efforts to promote sustainability and waste prevention.


ARAMARK's commitment to environmental stewardship is part of an ethos based on corporate social responsibility, which they define as "focusing on employee advocacy, environmental stewardship, health and wellness, and community involvement."

This year, FORTUNE again recognized the company—which employs approximately 250,000 people across 22 countries—on its list of "World's Most Admired Companies." Since 1998, peers and analysts have ranked ARMARK as one of the top three most admired companies in its industry. Also this year, the firm was recognized by the Ethisphere Insitute as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies.

According to the Zero Waste Alliance, "A future without waste and toxics is not just a dream; it's a necessity."

That may be so, but until then, getting college kids to compete against each other to increase recycling rates and reduce landfill rates is an idea worth its weight in trash.



Environmental Protection Agency. Municipal Solid Waste. July 24, 2012. Accessed August 14, 2012.
Nicole Cotroneo. August 14, 2008. Accessed August 14, 2012.
ARAMARK. Recycling Efforts Prevent Over 19 Million Pounds Of Waste From Entering the Landfill During National Competition. July 26, 2012. Accessed August 14, 2012.
ARAMARK. About ARAMARK. Accessed August 14, 2012.
Fortune. 358 Most Admired companies. March 19, 2012. Accessed August 14, 2012.
Ethisphere Institute. World's Most Ethical Companies. March 15, 2012. Accessed August 14, 2012.
Zero Waste Alliance. Creating a Prosperous and Inclusive Future Without Waste. June 26, 2012. Accessed August 14, 2012.

image: Modern landfill operation at Waimanalo Gulch, the municipal sanitary landfill for the City & County of Honolulu. (credit: Eric Guinther, Wikimedia Commons)