Thursday, March 27, 2014

Recycling Reception Reflection

As an environmental evangelist from Boone County, Kentucky, I was pretty jazzed to attend the grand opening of the county's new recycling center.

Ribbon Cutting
Greg Middendorf, Melissa Gabriel Grandstaff, Kelly Chapman, Judge Gary Moore, Scott Pennington and Dennis Gosney cutting the ribbon

...And not just because I totally adore Kelly Chapman, the supervisor at Boone County Public Works Division of Solid Waste and lynchpin behind the expanded recycling services.

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Kelly Chapman in her new facility

...And also not just because I give hoots about conserving natural resources.

The most exciting part of the new recycling facility is that it expands services to residents while saving tons of money.

Tons of money, y'all.

While I realize an outline of county recycling procedures might lie a little outside the confines of this blog's intended topics, I have to share the stellar program with you. It's amazing.

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Dennis Gosney, recycling center operator and total Vanna White

When I worked for Boone County years ago, we contracted recycling services with private businesses. They charged the county to provide drop-box bins and then haul away the bins once they were full of recyclables. Then, the company would sell the recycled material they collected from us for more money. That business plan, while surely lucrative for the private company, didn't make much sense to Kelly, especially when the county was paying more than $50,000 a year for the privilege of having our material hauled away.

So, through state grants from the Kentucky Division of Waste Management, Kelly created a county-run recycling drop-box program. Instead of paying someone else to collect recyclables, the county did it in-house, and then sold the sorted recyclables to third parties. This not only saved taxpayer dollars, but made money for the county.

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Dennis and Kelly in the new facility

Because of the savings, they were able to expand the program. When the county-run program began 2.5 years ago, there were six drop-box bins where residents could toss their recyclables. Now, there are more than 20 bins and around 32 tons of recyclables are collected every month.

For the record: That's 32 tons of discarded items that don't go into a landfill. Every month.

The growing program highlights the savings that the Boone County has enjoyed. In 2013, the county processed 781 binfulls of recyclables. If a private company were still running the program, they would have charged an estimated $148,390, plus rental fees for the drop-box bins. Instead, the recycling program made more than $66,000.

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They also have a cat on staff that earns its keep by eating vermin, or "disease vectors" as we call them in the biz

With the expanded program, the county was also able to offer recycling to all Boone County schools, something that was just too expensive to do before. Each school is outfitted with recycling containers and supplied with an individualized recycling program. Kids learn how to recycle in the classroom, and hopefully, they learn a little about natural resources and economics, too.

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The sorting line, where recyclables are sorted and tossed down chutes to bins to be baled

And now we get to the new recycling facility. For the last couple of years, the county had to separate the recyclables by hand, meaning that they would dump the binfull of recyclables out and inmates in the county's work-release program would pick through for plastics, aluminum, steel cans and paper, then bag each material.

The new facility will allow the county to process a load of recyclables in a quarter of the time, and to triple the amount of recyclables they can collect. That means that they can take in more material faster, selling the sorted recyclables and bringing in even more revenue.

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Baled cans, ready to be sold for cash

If it sounds like I'm giving you the hard sell on this program, it's because I am. I am totally awed by this because while, yes, I am in love with the idea of everyone recycling all the time, it has to make fiscal sense. And Kelly has worked hard to get grants, balance the books and ensure that Boone Countians are getting the best deal possible. They are saving money while saving the Earth.

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Kelly Chapman and Judge Gary Moore

Of course, Kelly couldn't have made the program happen all by herself. Judge Gary Moore offered thoughtful support and guidance for the Solid Waste Division, while ensuring that the taxpayers' concerns were addressed first. Scott Pennington, while only serving as the County Engineer and Director of Boone County's Public Works department for a short time, has been instrumental in the program's development. Kelly's trusty team of Melissa Gabriel Grandstaff, Dennis Gosney and Greg Middendorf have done tons of work to make the recycling center what it is. And, naturally, without the grant and know-how provided by the Kentucky Division of Waste Management, none of this would have been possible.

Kelly and Melissa Gabriel Grandstaff

I asked Kelly how she saw the recycling program developing in the future. "This is a hard question," she said. "I hope we continue to grow and expand. I hope we offer more recycling to Kenton and Campbell counties. It would be amazing if we could get every school in Northern KY to recycle."

I totally agree.


Tat said...

You'd love it in the UK Becky - we have our recycling collected - alternate weeks they collect general waste and then recycling, and often I don't have anything in my general waste bin! They also collect food waste for composting every week, as well as garden waste. Makes me happy :-)

Becky Haltermon said...

That is awesome! I know of some US cities that enjoy services like that, but unfortunately, none of them are in the state of Kentucky.

Thanks for commenting! I really appreciate hearing about your experience!

Josh Flowers said...

You do stop motion now? Amazing.

Becky Haltermon said...

Duh. I do it all Josh Flowers.