Most have heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” but in Limestone County one man’s trash could be paying a neighbor’s salary.
Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful Executive Director Lynne Hart knows a lot about trash. Yet, she would never use that word to describe most discarded items. When Hart sees things like cardboard, she sees green.
“Cardboard is the lifeblood of the Athens-Limestone Recycling Center,” Hart said. “It creates the largest revenue stream amongst all the materials we handle.”
Funds from cardboard sales, which is currently about $100 per ton, cover the losses the Recycling Center experiences by accepting items most other places don’t accept such as glass bottles and jars, No. 3 through No. 7 plastics (No. 1 and No. 2 do bring in money) electronics and all types of batteries.
Cardboard funds also cover the salary of KALB Education Coordinator Tammy Haymon. Haymon’s position was recently reduced to part time due to the loss of cardboard to Decatur Recycling Center, according to Hart.
Haymon is an employee who typically spends her days educating city and county youth. She takes environmental lessons such as recycling and litter control, and hands-on programs into all Limestone County schools.
“She focuses on the importance of the environment and how it plays a role in their lives,” Hart said. “Unless you teach children about nature and they have a connection to it and understand how it all works together, they will have no appreciation for it. They will have no sense of stewardship toward the environment.”
KALB and Athens-Limestone Recycling Center recently helped make it easier to recycle cardboard throughout the county with hopes of securing jobs and a safer environment for years to come. Hart and others like Recycling Plant Manager Ruby McCartney are committed to finding ways to increase the cardboard recycling trend.
Recently, 40 cardboard mini-cyclers were purchased with approximately $75,000 in grant money awarded by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
Mini-cyclers will be placed at any Athens-Limestone County business that has large amounts of cardboard waste, according to Hart. “These are provided free of charge and will be serviced free of charge by the Athens-Limestone Recycling Center,” Hart said.
She added, KALB is trying to replace the most unsightly cardboard recycling cages first, with the business’ permission. So far, 10 of the 40 mini-cyclers are being used. Hart said 30 are still to be placed.
“Businesses can call the Recycling Center and request bins,” she said. “The center will then go and access the amount of cardboard that they create, decide if they fit the qualifications and then put the bin at the location free-of-charge and service it free-of-charge.”
Hart said KALB would do the same thing for office paper recycling. “We provide the business with a recycling cart,” she said. “We service it for free and it keeps all of those materials out of the landfill.”
She believes recycling helps business’ bottom line. “It saves money,” Hart said. “If you kept all the cardboard, all the office paper, newspaper, metal of any kind, aluminum cans, plastics — if you kept all of that out of your dumpster, what’s left? How much smaller of a dumpster could you use? Or could you reduce the number of times the dumpster is serviced?”
She knows business people care about recycling, but said their first priority is financial stability. “If we can do two good things by getting them to recycle and also save money on their bottom line, then it is a win-win situation.”
Approximately 280 Athens-Limestone businesses currently recycle. More than 150 recycle cardboard.
County residents can also recycle cardboard. Hart said seven expanded-metal trailers were purchased for county cardboard recycling and were placed alongside the large green recycling trailers located at all county schools.
“Now when people in the county bring their items to the trailers to be recycled, they can also bring their cardboard,” Hart said. “It’s been going in the trash. We are trying to make cardboard recycling as convenient as possible.”
The Limestone County Commission purchased six of the trailers. One was purchased with a $2,000 grant received from the Alabama Mountains, Rivers and Valleys Resource Conservation and Development Council.
City residents who want to recycle cardboard, but don’t recycle curbside, can take drop-off items to the Athens-Limestone Recycling Center at 15896 Lucas Ferry Road. Outside bins are available 24 hours a day, seven days a weeks.
The center, which is the oldest nonprofit of its kind in the state, also profits when residents recycle aluminum, office paper (shredded accepted) and newspapers.
To find out more about what can be recycled, call 256-233-8000.