Campus Race to Zero Waste (CRZW), formerly known as Recycle Mania, has begun on campus.  

The first week beginning on Jan. 31 of the competition is already underway. According to Carina Collet, fourth-year English major and manager of the sustainability office, the numbers for the first week are promising for the rest of the competition.  

Wartburg College has participated in the competition in the past, including last year when Wartburg did not perform well against the competitors.  


“It was hard with COVID-19 because everyone got sent home around mid-March, so we didn’t really finish the competition last year,” Collet said. “The change with the name Campus Race to Zero Waste allows changes to some of the divisions, so you can go for a benchmark or you can compete against other schools where in the past you could just compete against other schools.” 

Collet noted that Wartburg’s competition would not participate in the benchmarks but would still compete against other schools. In Iowa, the competing schools are Coe College, Iowa State University, Loras College (benchmarks participate), University of Iowa (benchmarks participate) and Wartburg College.  

“CRZW adds the competitive aspect into something mundane as recycling every day. Universities and colleges are competing nationwide in CRZW so it is interesting to compare percentiles and the recycling methods of other campuses versus ours. Locally, Wartburg is competing with Coe College,” Raegan Matthews, first-year biology and pre-medicine major and assistant for Sustainability Office, said. 

“I’d like to see us win our local competition against Coe, but beyond that, I hope to see a solid jump in our diversion rate or material that is recycled rather than put into the trash that persists even after the end of the competition,” Brian Rumsey, Environmental Sustainability Advisor, said. 

The campus uses a diversion rate currently of 80% repurposed waste and 20% single use waste. These percentages are found by adding the total weight of waste on campus and dividing it by what is recyclable or compostable or isn’t going to landfill.  

“We work with the city and we get the weight of all the waste generated on campus, so the sustainability department weighs all the compost in the glass and the city sends us numbers for the single stream recycling in the trash and the cardboard,” Collet said.  

Collet and Matthews both want to adjust the 80/20 goals for campus. According to Collet, the campus currently has a 20% repurposed waste and an 80% single-use waste. The adjusted goals have not yet been discussed, but Matthews and Collet said the goal is likely to be 80/20 by 2025. 

“For recycling in general the COVID-19 crisis has reintroduced bad habits with single use silverware and other utensils all over campus, especially with take out, for sanitary purposes. Although keeping everyone healthy is a priority, the amount of plastic Wartburg is generating and then the students immediately disposing of is alarming [to sustainability],” Matthews said.  

The sustainability office has been working with the Dining Services Office to allow students to bring reusable containers to the Mensa for their takeout options. Collet said she encourages students to bring their own bag for their takeout or when they pick up a meal transfer from the Konditorei or the Den-Rittersal and to reconsider if they need the plastic silverware or if they could use their own from their dorm.  

While Collet will graduate in May, Matthews hopes to bring insight and continue to have educational programs for all students on campus.  

“As a first year, my main goal is to incorporate COVID safe recycling ideas and themed events for the groups of students, and eventual new students, like me that don’t have an idea of what ‘normal’ college looks like,” Matthews said. “My hope is that the students like me can participate in fun activities that we haven’t had the opportunity to be involved in until it is safe for us to be closer again.” 






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