| PAPER, PLASTICS, ALUMINUM AND COMPUTERS? – The UTM Recycles Barn in Martin accepts a variety of recyclables free of charge in an effort to reduce landfill space. Recyclables include computers, copper wire, aluminum and No. 1 and No. 2 plastics. |
While UT Martin’s Recycling Barn is trying to lead the community into “greener” disposal methods, Weakley County schools are trying to find room in a tighter utilities budget.
Although changes are being made to the utilities budget that will see county schools cut back on electricity usage, trying to reduce the budget’s substantial waste costs is a different issue. According to Weakley County Director of Schools Randy Frazier, a large portion of the current utilities budget – which includes those power costs – also includes costs dedicated to daily refuse disposal for the 10 schools throughout the county.
“A big portion of those utilities costs is all the trash coming from the cafeteria,” Frazier says. “We could recoup some of those funds from recycling, but those disposal fees will remain roughly the same.”
The cuts to the utilities budget – intended to support a one percent salary increase for educators in the county – were proposed by the Health, Education and Economic Development committee. The recent installation of more energy efficient lighting fixtures for each school gymnasium is intended to support the planned utilities cut.
Frazier explains that chartering a deal with a recycling service would be a benefit, but the costs to maintain such a deal might negate any savings.
“There is probably some paper mixed in with our garbage that we try to recycle as best we can, and doing that could result in a tremendous amount of savings,” Frazier says. “Even home consumers have to pay to recycle somehow. When you’re talking about 10 schools throughout the county, then that’s a big commitment.”
Frazier does note that there is still room for community and school organized recycling drives.
“We have a number of projects for recycling cans and printer cartridges,” Frazier says. “We’re always looking for ways to conserve and save resources as much as we can. We’ve tried to become as paperless as we can and over the years this is something I think we will continue to work on.”
One such instance of an organized event was the recycling of textbooks for schools in the county. The Recycling Barn at UT Martin, headed by UTM Custodial Manager Dennis Kosta, recently picked up roughly 5,000 used textbooks for recycling from each county school. The Recycling Barn has also handled pick-ups for K-12 schools in Martin.
Kosta says that he would like to continue working with the county schools for routine pick-ups, but he has not yet made any long-term deals with the county.
He admits that the major logistic challenges with “going green” may be keeping city and county officials at bay.
“It is a headache dealing with everything.” Kosta says. “I was hoping that we would have a co-partnership but the county and surrounding cities haven’t worked with us yet. The community wants to do this but the city and county just doesn’t want to deal with the headache.”
Kosta goes onto say that there is a demand for a larger, government funded recycling program outside of the University for the Weakley County area.
Kosta adds that the money that comes from the Tennessee Litter Grant, a yearly grant awarded by TDOT to each of Tennessee’s 95 counties, could be used to help support a non-university recycling center if the county were to get one.
“We’re the only county in the region that doesn’t have its own recycling plant,” Kosta says. “The county has people driving around for this litter grant program and a lot of the stuff that’s litter out here is recyclable. Why not have them recycle it here in the county?”