Commentary Ohio University

CG Column: Recyclemania van may not be best advertising outlet for competition

The Recyclemania van sits parked outside Baker University Center. Photo by CG Editor-in-Chief Erich Hiner.

By CG Commentary Editor Lane Robbins

Many people have seen the “Recyclemania” van on campus, parked in front of Chubb Hall or outside one of the dining halls. It’s meant to spread recycling awareness, but is it sending a contradictory message?

The van, owned by the Ohio University Recycling and Refuse office, has been used to advertise OU’s recycling standings in the nationwide Recyclemania competition that ended last week.

A Recyclemania van is a clever way to promote the environmentally-friendly event, but it sends a confusing message to the OU community. Why is a gas-guzzling van driving around campus to advertise recycling?

Recycling and reducing fossil fuel consumption are related environmental issues. They both have to do with conserving natural resources. It seems ironic to use gasoline to promote recycling.

Ed Newman, manager of OU Recycling and Refuse, said the gas used is minimal – enough to move the van from “point A” to “point B.”

“We wanted to turn the van into an ‘art car,’” Newman said. “We didn’t just drive it around.”

According to the Recyclemania website, Newman is one of the co-founders of the competition, along with Stacy Edmonds Wheeler of Miami University. The event began in 2001 and now includes 630 schools nationwide. Final results for the six different competitions will be announced on April 15th.

Newman said OU is currently in 15th place for pounds of recycling per person, and 21st place for cardboard recycling per capita. In the Mid-American Conference schools, OU is among the best for recycling.

This is great news, and Campus Recycling’s cheerleading has helped promote the event. But competition standings can also be viewed at many campus locations, including Alden Library, Baker University Center and Grover Center. The current standings can also be seen on the Recyclemania website.

The Recycling and Refuse office has six vehicles in its fleet: two pick-up trucks, one van, two box trucks and a stake-bed truck, which also functions as a dump truck. All vehicles were purchased used. The “billboard” van is up for sale.

Vans and trucks may be necessary to the work of the recycling department, but it is a strange sight to see one parked various places on campus, with white boards and black marker used to advertise recycling standings.

Even when the Recyclemania van isn’t cruising around Athens, people may assume it is. After all, that’s what other advertising vehicles do.

Next year, Newman would like to use the office’s small box truck to advertise Recyclemania. I ask that Campus Recycling reconsider, unless they come by a hybrid car, a solar-powered van or something else more eco-friendly.

That may seem far-fetched, but it sends a consistent message to the OU community: recycling and gasoline consumption do not go well together.


  1. You’re missing the point there, Lane. We can nit pick all day long, everything we do has an environmental consequence. You are using coal electricity to write an article about how Campus Recycling’s van uses fossil fuel to promote recycling. Wouldn’t it be better for the environment if you didn’t write your article and a little coal wasn’t burned. Or if no one read your article because they too are burning coal. Or if I didn’t take the time to point out your folly, because I too am using coal electricity now to comment on your coal use to comment on the fuel use of a recycling message. You get the point. Don’t get lost in the details, pay attention to the bigger picture.


    Jim Laske

  2. Thanks for commenting, Jim, but I don’t believe I’m missing the point that everything we do has environmental consequences. Maybe it is nitpicking, but my reaction to the Recyclemania van and the reaction of others I talked with was one of confusion and curiosity. Symbols have power and to use the “art car” as an advertisement, to me, sends a mixed message about environmental sustainability. Using a computer also uses fossil fuels, but people often don’t think about that — it is more hidden in the public discourse. I also own a car, but I try to limit my driving around town. We need vans and trucks to transport recyclables, but we do not need to announce and celebrate their use.


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