Campus gets cash for trash

Campus gets cash for trash

Jasmine Cannon

The University of Alabama Recycling Department recycles a variety of items that can turn into fast cash. A tractor-trailer of 44,000 pounds of compacted recycled paper leaves the dock at least once a week, and there is revenue generated in return. While this department is responsible for all recycling done on campus, the revenue it gets in return is small in comparison to the bigger picture of bettering the environment.

“Our revenue that we generate just goes back in to help our operational budget to supply and help pay for the payroll and expenses,” executive director Tony Johnson said.

Revenue goes into funding items such as the bins seen on campus and the recycling bags put into these bins. Blue carts used to maneuver materials in the warehouse costs nearly $500. The round blue receptacles cost $100 each, and the flat blue ones seen in every building on campus cost between $70 and $80. The tri-bins on the Quad will be replaced with bins that cost almost $700. Some of the bags used in the bins cost 38 cents, while others cost close to $1.50.

“At a $1.47 each, even when they’re full of plastic, the amount of income we generate from that doesn’t even pay for that bag,” said Tim Mask, warehouse services coordinator. “We have a lot of expenses … and we’ve got three guys coming back all day long bringing stuff back.”

At least 5,000 pounds of recycled material is brought from campus to the warehouse daily. Revenue is not generated for every item that is recycled, and the amount of money that will be earned varies depending on the market. For instance, last April, when the tornado hit, the need for recycled wood decreased because of its abundance. As the economy shifts, so do the market prices.

The last yellow sheet that Johnson received last week featured prices per short ton for the following items in the month of March: newspapers at $90, sorted office paper at $155 and corrugated paper at $125.

For items such as computers, Johnson said they have a contract with Georgia Computers that does all e-recycling. Some computer monitors have mercury that can be hazardous in landfills.

“Instead of us just selling them in a surplus lot where we don’t know who’s getting them or we don’t know who it goes to, this is a way it is recycled accordingly,” he said.

Print cartridges are also recycled, but not for revenue. The department works with HP and Staples with recycling of the cartridges that come from various locations around campus.

Though the Recycling Department gets funds for some of the materials they recycle, the focus of the facility is strictly on bettering the environment and keeping materials out of the landfills.

“We’re more focused on diverting as much as possible from the local landfill and trying to be good stewards of the environment,” Johnson said. “And, that’s why what money we do generate, we put it back into the department to continue to upgrade our containers so we can make it more noticeable to students to recycle.”

“Every pound we recycle, that’s a pound that we don’t have to pay for us to carry to the landfill,” Mask said. “Not only are we generating revenue, we’re saving money on the other end from keeping it out of the landfill. We’re also keeping it out of the landfill to help the environment.”

As of March 27, the department has saved more than 6,000 trees, 135,000 gallons of oil, nearly 1.5 million kilowatts of energy and almost 2.5 million gallons of water.

The Recycling Department has won numerous national awards for its work, and the staff hopes progress will continue.

For more information on the recycling work at UA, visit their website, visit them on 14th Street or call 205-348-8798.