07/21/05 — Recycling partnership is success

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Recycling partnership is success

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 21, 2005 1:49 PM

A Wayne County program designed to reduce the amount of solid waste going to the landfill, has the added benefit of helping the Wayne Opportunity Center and the county schools at the same time.

Wayne Opportunity Center and Keep Wayne County Beautiful joined this year to provide a paper recycling program in the county schools.

So far, the program has been a huge success. School officials say they have saved about $3,000 in the first few months of the program's operation

"We've reduced mixed paper going to the landfill by about 20 percent," said Danny Langley, maintenance director for the Wayne County schools.

John Chance, director of Wayne Opportunity Center, said that the Center had recycled almost an additional 90 tons of mixed paper since the program was kicked off in March.

That amounts to more than $6,000 in income for the Center.

Chance said that the partnership was a win-win situation for everyone involved.

"We're excited to have the schools participating and it helps the consumers at Wayne Opportunities have work, it provides income, saves on tipping fees and saves landfill space," Chance said. "We're very pleased with the program."

The two organizations applied for grants from the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources after realizing that a partnership would allow them to start a paper and cardboard recycling program in the schools.

Simonne Cato, director of KWCB, said recycling paper was an obvious start for the program because the schools use so much of it.

Each organization received a $25,000 grant last year to begin the project.

"A major dilemma that we had in starting a school recycling program was how to get the material collected to an intermediate processor and how to cover the transportation costs," said Ms. Cato.

Ms. Cato said that Wayne Opportunity Center, which provides jobs for the disabled, was willing to pick up the paper at the schools for free, in exchange for getting to sell the recycled materials.

KWCB was responsible for educational outreach, overseeing the program and assessing its progress.

Ms. Cato gave all the school principals an overview of the program in November. A contact person, assigned by each principal, then scheduled a time for Ms. Cato to come explain the program to the teachers and staff members at the individual schools.

Within a few months she made the presentation to 26 of the 31 schools, and arranged a time to deliver the bins.

Five schools have not yet scheduled time for the presentation: Belfast Academy, School Street Elementary, Goldsboro High School, Goldsboro Middle School and Spring Creek High.

"We hope to get those schools done at the beginning of the school year," said Ms. Cato.

The school administration building should also be participating in the program this year.

Each classroom was given a set of stackable bins. White paper goes in one bin, and mixed paper goes in the other bin.

"The bins are all blue for consistency," Ms. Cato said. "We didn't want confusion with the city green."

Labels, one in English and one in Spanish, are put on the bins to differentiate between the two kinds of paper. Each teacher was also given an "at a glance" handout.

That handout reminds the teacher what is considered white paper and what is considered mixed. The white is office paper, notebook paper and computer paper. The mixed includes phone books, newspapers and catalogs.

As part of the educational process, Ms. Cato explained why the papers had to be separated from each other.

"The difference has to do with the fiber strength of the paper," she said. "The mixed has to go through a lengthier process to recycle."

Ms. Cato said Mecklenburg County school system started a similar recycling program in 1998 and now saves close to $60,000 annually.

Other school staff members participate in the program by disposing of cardboard in large roll carts. When those carts are full, the schools can place excess cardboard in specially built wire cages outside.

On average, each school gets six roll carts, placed in pairs for each kind of paper, that are stored in maintenance closets or outside the building.

Each classroom empties its two bins into the roll carts once a week, and those bins are then collected by Wayne Opportunity employees.

Those employees leave empty roll carts and take the full ones back to be baled at the center.

Ms. Cato said that pick-ups now occur once a week, but that could change because some of the larger schools might need it more often.

"The one critical key feature to the program was to make sure the recycled items didn't get contaminated," Ms. Cato said. "The schools have tried recycling in the past but it failed because items other than paper were put in the recycle bins."

Both Chance and Ms. Cato said the contamination rate this time had been phenomenally low.

Once the workers at the center have baled the paper, the bales are put on a tractor trailer. Newark Recycled Fibers picks up the bales when the trailer is full. The company provided a free baler so it can expand its southeastern recycling market, and is already among the largest collectors, balers, packers and sellers of recovered paper.

"Wayne Opportunity gets paid for that paper, and it provides valid employment to folks with disabilities," Ms. Cato said.

The schools have been pleased with the results as well.

"This is a good program for us," Langley said. "To be able to conserve, reuse and save money, we're all for it."

The partnership has worked so well, the recycling program will expand this year to include large businesses.

"The grant we got for the coming year will allow us to expand to the commercial sector and to local government offices," Ms. Cato said.