Iowa State competes in national “Rinse, Recycle, Repeat” recycling challenge


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Recycling is a way that college students can live green.

Paige Anson

This month, Iowa State is taking on a national recycling challenge that takes environmental stewardship to a new, personal level.


With personal care products, to be exact.


Until the end of Earth Month, Iowa State is competing with 49 other colleges to recycle the most ‘#empties’ or personal care products.


The competition is hosted by cosmetics company Garnier, digital nonprofit organization and TerraCycle, a company that recycles usually unrecyclable products for free, according to their website.


Items that are being collected for the competition include personal care products that cannot be, or are not, usually recycled, like shampoo bottle caps and toothpaste, lip gloss and mascara tubes.


Other personal care containers can also be recycled in the competition, however, all containers must be cleaned out, said Lia Gomez, the sustainability director of Student Government and co-president of the campus sustainability organization The Green Umbrella.  



At the end of the month, the college that sent in the most ‘#empties’ to TerraCycle will receive a $2,000 scholarship and and a green garden, furnished by Garnier and TerraCycle, according to the competition’s website.


Along with giving campus communities the opportunity to help keep trash out of landfills and help their school win a national competition, students that take pictures of themselves recycling their empties with the hashtag #ISURRR will enter themselves for a chance to win a care package furnished by Garnier and The Green Umbrella, Gomez said.


“[Garnier] sent us some of their new shampoo and conditioner products, those would be a part of the prizes. Along with that, The Green Umbrella will include some of our swag that will be incorporated at the campus Earth Day celebration,” Gomez said.


The Earth Day celebration, titled the “Love Your Mother” event, will be held Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Memorial Union’s Great Hall, and the gifts that will be given out by The Green Umbrella include the reusable straws from March’s Sustainapalooza event, according to Gomez.


Bins to drop off used beauty product containers have been posted around campus. Some can be found on the first floor of the Memorial Union in the East and West Student Office spaces across from Panda Express and by the women’s bathroom, as well as in the General Services Building, next to Forker Building, and across from Agronomy Hall, Gomez said.


“The competition is open to anybody and everybody, including faculty,” Gomez said.


All prizes and free gifts aside, Gomez said that Iowa State’s participation in the competition is significant because it can inspire more people to start thinking and acting sustainably.


“I don’t think [recycling] is at the point yet where it is a national movement…But the fact that we are having that conversation and these competitions means we are getting the ball rolling,” Gomez said.


Other sustainability advocates on campus agree the competition is a good way to inspire sustainable action and thought within the community, and they look forward to the competition’s results at the end of the month.


One recycling advocate in particular also thinks that her residence hall is doing well with the challenge.


“It is super exciting. [Barton Hall has] had a bin implemented for about a week and the bottom is covered. Which is pretty cool considering it’s a lot of caps and tubes,” said Aviana Pingel, a sophomore in global resource systems and environmental science.


Pingel is co-president of The GreenHouse Group, a student organization that promotes recycling in the residency halls. She is hopeful that any recycling that starts during the competition will carry on around campus even after the competition is over.


“[The competition] is raising awareness about things that can be recycled and things you can do to be more sustainable…I think a major [benefit] of this is that it’s not limited to this competition. You can always send things back to [TerraCycle],” Pingel said.


Some items outside of the competition that can be recycled through TerraCycle include bath and shower accessories, cleaning supplies and accessories, coffee capsules, dental hygiene products, drink pouches, ear plugs and granola bar wrappers, according to the TerraCycle website.


These items can be sent in by individuals for free to TerraCycle by creating an account on their website and printing off a label, according to their website.