Kent State Wins Two Awards in Campus Race to Zero Waste Contest

The National Wildlife Federation recently awarded Kent State University first place in two categories from the 2021 Campus Race to Zero Waste competition: Zero Waste and Electronics Recycling – Total Pounds Recycled. 

Kent State competed against 24 colleges in the Electronics Recycled category and won the Zero Waste category. The competition occurred during the eight-week period of Jan. 31 to March 27.

Melanie Knowles, manager of sustainability at Kent State, said she appreciates the recognition and is excited about the achievements of the university.

“It is an honor for Kent State to achieve these wins, and the credit goes to everyone who has made an effort to be conscious of their waste and recycling,” Knowles said. “We know that this doesn’t just happen during the competition. Our community is striving toward zero waste year-round.”

Campus Race to Zero Waste, previously known as RecycleMania, is a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. The competition is managed by the National Wildlife Federation and governed by Recyclemania Inc.

Kent State won the Campus Race to Zero Waste Electronics Recycling Award

“By reducing their waste, these campuses have decreased the amount of trash entering our waterways and the negative impacts this has on wildlife and ecosystems,” said Kim Martinez, vice president of education and engagement programs at the National Wildlife Federation. “Our organization is pleased to work alongside RecycleMania Inc. to engage and educate millions of students, staff and faculty and to preserve this amazing program’s decades-long impacts on our environment.”

Colleges across the United States and Canada report the amount of recycling and trash collected each week. Each university is ranked in various categories based on who recycles the most on a per capita basis, which schools have the best recycling rate as a percentage of total waste and which schools generate the least amount of combined trash and recycling.

“Despite all the unique difficulties and pressures of this past year, our entire campus – students, faculty, staff and surrounding community – have remained steadfast in our collective commitment to sustainability and reducing waste,” said Leah Graham, outreach/recycling coordinator for Kent State. 

Electronics Recycling is a special category that tracks the total amount of computers, printers, consumer electronics and other scrap or materials that can be refurbished collected across campus. 

Kent State won the Campus Race to Zero Waste Large Campus Award

Kent State’s Office of Sustainability hosted four drop-off events throughout the spring semester that were open to faculty, staff, students and Kent community members. A total of 413 people sent 38,316 pounds of electronics to be recycled through an R2 certified recycler, where materials are handled in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

“The crew at University Facilities Management has done an outstanding job building on the electronics recycling days each year,” Knowles said. “It is gratifying to see the impact of the university and the community contributing to keeping these materials out of the landfill.”

The Zero Waste category is designed to help schools focus on waste reduction and zero waste efforts campus-wide. Participating schools track all sources of their waste generation in three campus buildings during the competition period.

Waste collected from the University Library, Design Innovation Hub and Engleman Hall all contributed to Kent State’s first-place ranking. From these three buildings, Kent State accumulated a total waste of 41,392.65 pounds, which includes recyclables, trash, food organics and reusable materials. 

“The Zero Waste category was new for us this year,” Knowles said. “It is very exciting to have these three buildings’ efforts in waste minimization recognized. And the Design Innovation Hub used this opportunity as they moved into their new space to address waste diversion from their many lab spaces.”

Kent State also hosted a total of 12 reuse education and awareness events on campus that contributed to points toward the Zero Waste rankings. One of the events the Office of Sustainability organized was the hall-versus-hall competition, where residence halls competed to determine which could generate the least waste. 

Eastway won the Large Residence Halls competition for recycling the most out of all residence halls, with 20.73 pounds recycled per person. Centennial E/F won the Small Residence Hall category, recycling 15.56 pounds per person.

The Kent State University Campus Race to Zero Waste Custodial Award was another reuse education awareness event. People nominated custodians to receive an award because of their outstanding efforts during Campus Race to Zero Waste. Twelve custodians were recognized with award certificates, letters and prizes for their outstanding performance during Campus Race to Zero Waste and their continued care of building spaces.

Stacy Wheeler, president and co-founder of Campus Race to Zero Waste, praised participating universities’ efforts and innovations during the competition.

“Faculty, staff and students at participating Campus Race to Zero Waste colleges and universities, once again, have shown new innovations in combating the huge amounts of packaging, food and material products that are traditionally sent to nearby landfills or incinerators,” Wheeler said. “We are proud that the competition gives college participants an outlet to showcase better solutions to reducing campus waste and promoting recycling each year.”

During the 2021 Race to Zero Waste competition, the participating universities realized substantial waste-reduction accomplishments:

  • 2.9 million students and staff were reached from more than 200 colleges and universities. 
  • 230 million plastic containers were kept out of the landfill.
  • Campuses prevented the release of 30,669 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) into the atmosphere, which is equal to preventing annual emissions from 6,463 cars.
  • 25.9 million pounds of waste were donated, recycled and composted.

To review further results from the 2021 competition, visit

To read the National Wildlife Federation’s press release about the competition, visit

For more information about Kent State’s recycling program, visit

POSTED: Friday, July 9, 2021 03:03 PM
UPDATED: Sunday, April 21, 2024 06:45 AM
Brady Warmbein