"All's Fair in Miami U Recycling"
Cincinnatti Enquirer, February 15, 2005
By Lori Kurtzman Enquirer staff writer

OXFORD - John Obrycki spent a recent Friday night digging through his neighbors' garbage, unearthing plastic containers and beer cans and what he swore was a Gatorade bottle filled with urine.

He was angry.

Didn't people realize there was a recycling competition going on? Here they were, tossing out what they could have easily rinsed and placed in recycle bins - didn't they know that "each can is a potential winner?"

"I looked at it and just got mad," said the 18-year-old Miami University freshman who lives on the third floor of Peabody Hall.

So he dug. He rinsed. He recycled. Even the Gatorade bottle.

"It was kind of nasty," Obrycki admitted, but "I am more than willing to dig through the trash."

This die-hard dedication is part of why Miami is in second place in a 10-week national college recycling competition, falling between two universities from the leafy green state of Oregon.

This year, 49 colleges are participating in RecycleMania, which began in 2001 between Miami University and Ohio University. Miami, which has been recycling since 1990, won that first competition easily, recycling 41.2 pounds of trash per student to OU's 32.6. But the next two years belonged to Bowling Green State University, as the competition grew.

Miami students regained the trophy last year with 58.28 pounds per student. And they don't want to give it up.

A bit about this trophy: Affectionately called the "RecycleManiac" or "Recycle Dude" or even "Tetanus," it's a 3-foot-tall figure with a bowling ball for a head, knobs for ears and a rusty propane tank for a body. These days, Dude's on tour throughout Miami's campus, dragged around by Obrycki or some other recycling zealot.

"We're really playing up the trophy," said Marcy Bauer, a graduate student and an environmental education coordinator at Miami. "He's hysterical."

Excitement at Miami - at least among people who get excited about trash - has been high since competition started Jan. 30. Four Oxford pizza delivery places have been tacking fliers to their cardboard boxes to promote recycling. A long banner was hung across a campus building to proclaim the start of RecycleMania, which runs through April 9.

But when the first week's results were announced, Miami knew it had to do more.

"We're in an Oregon sandwich," Bauer said.

The University of Oregon was leading with 7.14 pounds per student, and Miami's 6.6 pounds was closely chased by Oregon State University's 6.51.

So it will take some work to hang on to Recycle Dude. It's going to mean that the 6,600 or so students living in residence halls - they're the only ones counted in the competition - will have to start putting their soda cans, beer cans, empty shampoo bottles, office paper, pizza boxes and cereal boxes in the special containers on the floors of each hall.

Or it's going to mean that Obrycki will spend the next few months up to his elbows in trash.

"I'm kind of digging into the garbage for a couple reasons," said the environmental studies and history major from Ames, Iowa. "To help competition, that's good. ... Also, I sort of feel like humans in general, we sort of made a big mess of the world. And now we're trying to pick up a little.

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