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Recyclemania: Olympic College gives incentives for proper recycling

Tie-dyed, jump-suited Olympic College students are on patrol, awarding enviable parking spots and stainless steel water bottles to those caught properly recycling a can.

The handouts will promote the school's expansion of its two-year-old recycling program. It is now joining with the Kitsap County Solid Waste Division to help teach students how to reduce waste and recycle everything possible.

The college and Solid Waste secured a $5,000 grant from the state Department of Ecology to help purchase outdoor recycling bins. It is also taking a stab at Recyclemania, a competition between colleges in the U.S. and Canada that drives schools to ramp up recycling and cut down on waste. Olympic college is participating in the 10-year-old contest, which began Jan. 17.

Dean of Student Development Kim McNamara said although many students are already savvy about recycling, a growth in recycling access and education would prompt students to build upon progress already made.

"Since we first began, we significantly reduced our waste, but we still think we can continue to improve," she said. "In fact, we know we can."

Solid Waste Technician Toni Fuller helped provide the signs to be hung over recycling bins to show what items go where. But most of the recycling promotion is being done by the students.

A sustainability class posted the new recycling signs and the Environmental Outreach Club advertised at the bookstore and on vending machines what items could be recycled, McNamara said. Members of the Student Activities Group are dressing up in blue and green tie-dyed overalls to hand out prizes to those who recycle correctly — removing the cap from a plastic bottle before throwing it in the recycling bin, for example.

"They've taken the ball and done an amazing job with some of the promotional efforts," said Fuller, who first encouraged the school to take part in Recyclemania.

David White, a first-year student and one of the organizers of the event, said the school has room to improve, but the promotion is worth the effort.

"My goal is just to show the importance of our environment and recycling," he said. "It's for a good cause to help out. It's a way to live by example."

For Recyclemania, Olympic College will have its waste weighed, aiming for the lowest per person solid waste and the highest per person recycled materials. The first two weeks are considered trials and will not be counted. Starting Jan. 31, the school's results will go toward their ranking against 509 other schools. Olympic's weekly numbers will be posted at recyclemaniacs.org.

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