The Future of Campus Life: Learn How Campuses are reducing plastics and other waste

In the recent report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released in May, shocking news was shared about the health of the world’s wildlife populations – 1 million species are currently threatened with extinction. What does this mean? It means that the U.S. and other countries need to act fast to develop strong, smart plans and implement them quickly to put these wildlife species back on the path to recovery.

National Wildlife Federation’s strategic plan, Saving America’s Wildlife Toward a Common Agenda, addresses the extinction threat by engaging a diverse group of constituents including students, teachers, gardeners, hunters, anglers, environmental activists, and more to restore and protect American wildlife populations.

One of The National Wildlife Federation’s strategies involves targeting colleges and universities to help advance their efforts to reduce their waste, specifically plastics, resulting in less trash going to the landfill or ending up in the environment and impacting wildlife. RecycleMania is an 8 week competition and benchmarking tool for colleges and universities focused on reducing waste and increasing recycling. In 2019, 5.1 million students, faculty and staff from 300 American and Canadian campuses recycled and composted 69.5 million pounds of waste and cut out 300 million single-use plastic containers from the waste stream.

The Plastic Threat to Wildlife

The IPBES report summarizes that 33 percent of marine mammals are at risk, as well as 33 percent of coral species. One of the main reasons for this extinction crisis is pollution, including plastic pollution in our oceans. 

Plastics of different sizes are being ingested by billions of creatures, it is estimated that ingestion of plastic kills hundreds of thousands of marine birds, mammals, and fish  each year.

Sea turtles are now ingesting twice as much plastic as they were 25 years ago. Credit: Gwen Nelmes

RecycleMania Case Studies Can Help

RecycleMania campuses are reducing their usage of single-use plastic containers, and other plastic waste on campus, and making an impact each year on their contribution to the waste stream. In addition to tracking and reporting, RecycleMania campuses launch educational awareness campaigns and host engagement activities such as “Mug Shots.” The “Mug Shots” campaign recognizes individuals for using reusable cups and mugs instead of single-use plastic bottles.

This year, RecycleMania recognized four campuses as part of the case study competition for sharing their best practices in waste reduction:

All campus case studies can be found online at Learn From Your Peers.

RecycleMania campuses will continue to strengthen their waste management programs with a goal of working toward zero waste, and increasing their focus on plastics pollution. The 2020 RecycleMania competition opens for registration on September 2, and a new resource is coming this fall – Taking Action on Campus Against Plastic Pollution. RecycleMania is also partnering with the Ocean Conservancy on the 2019 International Coastal Clean-up this fall to engage campuses nationwide in cleaning up their waterways to ensure healthy habitat for wildlife.