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UNT campus recycling brings $20,000 in profits

UNT campus recycling brings $20,000 in profits

Jacob "Slacker" Branscum, Ricky "Grandpa" Fields and Kevin Pulido pose by the box truck. The truck is one of many that serve the UNT campus. Kady Shirley

UNT campus recycling brings $20,000 in profits
February 22
10:30 2017

UNT has made around $20,000 in profit off of the campus recycling regimen within the last year, UNT’s recycling coordinator Douglas Turnage said. 

The recycled items on campus are taken by Pratt, a recycling company that UNT partners with, Turnage said. The company takes all cardboard, paper and plastic bales from UNT to its facility in Shreveport, Louisiana, to “re-pulp” the paper and cardboard into recycled goods.

“Pratt will take our plastic and use the plastic as a trading chip,” Turnage said. “They contact other companies who deal with plastic and trade products.”

When Pratt picks up the products from UNT, the company gives the university “a market price” for the items, he said. UNT makes a profit from all the products recycled. Last year they brought in between $16,000-20,000.

“If we didn’t have any recycling on campus, and all that went into the trash, our trash bill would have gone up by $20,000,” Turnage said.

Throughout campus there are hundreds of small blue recycling containers, hundreds more “Slim Jims”–tall waste containers–and dozens of 65-gallon tote bins with wheels attached at the bottom, he said.

But not all of them are for paper. There are certain cans designed specifically for paper items and others for plastic items. Recycling bins that have a slot at the top are solely for paper, and bins with a round hole are for plastic bottles.

The paper recycling process is known as “tracing a piece of paper,” Turnage said. When a blue recycling bin fills up it is then disposed at a nearby Slim Jim. When a Slim Jim gets full, it’s “a custodian’s job” to collect the paper and dump it into a tote, he said.

The totes get picked up on a schedule, which changes daily. There are two different routes run by two different custodians who go around campus in their trucks checking the tote cans.

Once taken from the totes, the recycled paper gets thrown into “Gaylord boxes,” a 4-by-4 foot cardboard box. The Gaylords are located inside the recycling storage facility on campus. The recycling process for plastic items is similar to the paper process.

Plastic bottles that once sat around UNT campus for bottle recycling now line shelves in the UNT recycling facilities. They were replaced with the familiar three bin systems that are frequently seen around campus. Kady Shirley

There is one custodian who checks the “Slim Jims” designated for plastic items, and these bins have a plastic bag hanging off the side. If the bag is more than halfway full the custodian will change out the bag, place the full bag into their truck and throw the bag into a Gaylord designed for plastic items.

“White office paper is the most recyclable paper we produce, [it] can be recycled about seven times,” Turnage said.

When the paper gets sent to a recycling facility, it can re-pulped and turned into new paper. Paper, he said, is made up of clothing-like fibers that, if processed too much, will no longer be able to make paper. 

“Every time they recycle it those fibers get a little bit shorter and a little bit shorter until finally they can’t grab onto each other, kind of like how Velcro works,” he said.

Once the paper has been recycled about seven times it either gets thrown away with the trash or gets turned into Kleenex or paper towels. If recycled paper gets touched by any type of liquid, it is contaminated and considered to be trash.

“We have a huge problem with that,” Turnage said. “We have people that take bottles and will drop them in [paper bins] so we try to keep paper and anything liquid separate, otherwise it will be trash.”

Cardboard is another product that can be recycled but does not go into recycling bins. It has its own dumpster, which is locked for storage reasons. There is a slot for the cardboard boxes to be put through, forcing the box to be flattened, saving space in the dumpster.

Any type of cardboard can be taken to be recycled unless it is covered in wax, paint or food. Due to the oils from the pizza, there is a ban on any pizza boxes.

There are about 100 solar powered trash cans around campus that email the staff when they are full. These garbage cans save time and labor for the recycling staff because they don’t have to check on the cans as frequently.

The solar cans have sonar devices in them that bounce sonar waves off them and email the recycling staff when they are full.  The recycling cans only have the sonar device to say when it’s full, but the garbage cans have a compacting ram that crushes the trash down.

These cans have been on campus for about three years and were purchased with a grant given to the university, Turnage said. Each can is worth about $5,000.

Journalism sophomore Rachel Linch thinks UNT is definitely a school that is focused on recycling and being more environment-friendly. She feels that it is encouraging to hear recycling is not only helping the environment but can also help the university earn money.

“We are the ‘Mean Green’ when it comes to school spirit and sports, but I also think we are ‘Mean Green’ when it comes to the environment,” Linch said.

Featured Image: Jacob “Slacker” Branscum (left), Ricky “Grandpa” Fields (center) and Kevin Pulido (right) pose by the box truck. The truck is one of many that serve the UNT campus. Kady Shirley

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Jacqueline Guerrero

Jacqueline Guerrero

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