recycling: Money Makes the Recycling World Go 'Round

Attempting to consolidate several recycling programs, Lee County School District, Ft. Myers, Fla., has implemented a recycling incentive program that has reduced the solid waste budget by $762,000 and generated more than $31,000 in revenue since its inception in 1995.

The success is due to a district-wide recycling program, which is managed by the school district's Purchasing and Supply Department, and involves 68 schools and six support departments.

Prior to the program, the county's expenses for trash disposal had climbed steadily from nearly $550,000 in the 1989-'90 school year to costs of $968,037 in the 1994-'95 school year. Results were seen immediately with the recycling program, as trash disposal costs dropped to $820,891- saving $169,109 in the 1995-'96 school year.

In addition to saving money, the district has collected more than 1,900 tons of paper, cardboard and other recyclables. Contracted haulers market the recyclables to a materials recovery facility (MRF) owned by the Lee County Solid Waste Department or to other area recyclers such as Southeast Paper Recycling Corp. or Garden Street Recycling Center.

Most recycled plastics are marketed to the county MRF, which, in turn, sends 90,000 pounds of No. 1 through No. 7 plastics to a local re-manufacturer, BTW (Better Than Wood). BTW produces 80,000 pounds per month of plastic lumber, plastic picnic tables and plastic park benches, which are purchased for schools and parks.

The program's impetus was twofold: Kimmins Recycling and Gulf Disposal/WMI, both in Ft. Meyers, began collecting the city's recyclables, and 14 schools began recycling programs during summer sessions. Plus, education training sessions, entitled "4R's Curriculum," began with the fall 1995 term for recycling students and school staff.

Complementing this effort, the district's Public Information Office produced a video, which was made available to classroom TV systems to be televised with morning announcements. The office also kept the local newspapers apprised of the cost savings achieved.

A key element to Lee County's recycling success was the school board's decision to share savings with schools that contributed to those savings. The staff, who had to learn a different way to handle trash, was sold more easily on the idea when they knew their school would profit from their efforts.

By the end of the '96 school year, all district schools and support departments were practicing some form of recycling. Contests and an awards ceremony recognized schools and individuals that had excelled in their recycling programs. And, in observance of Earth Day in April 1997 and 1998, seven schools held a newspaper recycling contest where the local newspaper recycler awarded cash prizes to the school that collected the most recycled newsprint.

So far, the recycling program has included paper, cardboard, newsprint, steel and aluminum cans, fluorescent tubes, batteries, computer printer cartridges, and shipping pallets. Glass is not collected bacause of its potential breakage and liability. In 1997, the recycling program entered a new phase with the introduction of compost bins constructed by the vocational school's carpentry class.

One goal for the upcoming school year is to find a solution to the problem of Styrofoam cafeteria trays and restroom paper hand towels, which are not recyclable. The staff has determined that the towels make an excellent medium for compost bins because they decompose rapidly. Styrofoam lunch trays are providing district staff with a greater challenge.

Agreements Leach Co., Oshkosh, Wis., and Leach Credit Corp. announced an agreement with Fleet Capital Services to promote municipal leasing through Leach distributors.

Advantage/Globe Lift Systems, San Diego, has been accepted into the General Motors Dealer Equipment Program.

Award Tomra Metro LLC., a unit of Tomra of

North America Inc., Stratford, Conn., was awarded Alcoa Recycling Co.'s 1997 Presidential Quality Award.

Contracts The Ukiah (Calif.) City Council has selected Ukiah-based Solid Waste Systems to design, construct and operate a rail served transfer station. The city council also has selected San Francisco-based Waste Solutions Group to implement the rail transport and disposal portion of the system.