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Four local universities and one community college are among at least 500 higher education campuses that will kick off participation in RecycleMania on Sunday. The ten week program challenges schools across the United States and Canada to reduce waste, increase recycling levels, and generally raise awareness of conservation efforts.

Started in 2001 as a competition between collegiate sports rivals Ohio University and Miami University, the program has grown exponentially – 630 campuses in total participated in the event last year, collecting 91 million pounds of recyclables and organic materials. RecycleMania organizers say this helped prevent the release of over 127,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, an amount comparable to the emissions of 25,000 passenger cars or the electricity used to power 15,500 homes.

UC San Diego last year came in fourth in the “Gorilla Prize” category, collecting 432 tons of recyclables. Top honors, though, went to another local school – California State University San Marcos was named the event’s overall “Grand Champion,” with 79.69% of the school’s overall waste, excluding such items as construction debris, yard waste, and electronics being recycled.

Both campuses will participate again this year, along with Palomar College, Point Loma Nazarene University, and the University of San Diego.

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