MSU, Starkville see growth in recycling programs

January 8, 2013 10:25:12 AM



Spoiler alert: This newspaper will probably be thrown away. 


According to a report from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, about 10 million tons of newsprint is thrown away each year in the United States.  


There is no way to be sure exactly how many of those tons come from this state, but without question it's more than a few. 


For most of Mississippi, recycling is a hit-and-miss proposition. Most cities and counties are either unable to afford providing the service, or have shown little interest.  


But in Starkville and on the campus of Mississippi State, efforts over the last few years have made recycling easier than ever, and it is paying off by the tons. 


At Mississippi State, Environmental Collaborative Office Director Jeremiah Dumas said about 70,000 pounds of recyclable material is collected each month. This more than triples the university's monthly average from two years ago, when a single-stream program was implemented. A single-stream system allows all recyclable material to go into a single waste bin, which is then collected and sorted by a contractor. 


"It has really taken on some steam," Dumas said. "We have always had a paper recycling and cardboard program, but the push for the single-stream campus wide program really jumped it off." 


The blue bins that dot campus are for everything but glass, a rule Dumas said is from Waste Pro, of Columbus, the university's collection company.  


"Waste Pro actually handles all of our waste, as well," he said. "It's an integrated waste and recycling program, which is, of course, different from the city, because they handle all their waste themselves." 


The city of Starkville began their contract recycling service in 2009, partnering with Waste Management out of Jackson. Emma Gandy, the city's director of sanitation and environmental services, said the city provides curbside pickup and special recycling bags for between 1,400 and 1,700 citizens who have signed up for the program.  


Operational funds for the program come from the $13 residential fee for garbage collection, but with more people wanting to participate, budgets are getting tighter. For the most part, the program is funded through grants. 


"It's free to the citizens of Starkville, and we pick it up at no (extra) charge," Gandy said. "But at the same time, when you look at the amount of funds budgeted for it, it puts us in a Catch 22." 


Last year, the city budgeted $86,000 to have Waste Management come in and remove the material, but according to Gandy the city actually spent $87,000. This year, only $63,000 was allotted for the same process. 


"The more we recycle, the more it costs to have it removed, and removal price is strictly based on tonnage," Gandy said. "If we continue on the trend we have in the past, the potential is there that we might not have the funds to support it." 


In 2011, the city recycled 295 tons of material, with the 2012 numbers nearing that at 244 tons, which does not include December's load.  


Those are encouraging numbers, no doubt, but Mississippi State's numbers are even more promising. 


"We are right up there, if we aren't collecting more," Dumas said. "We did about 600,000 pounds (300 tons) either last year or the year before. The university is a little more of a controlled environment, but we are seeing continued growth and interest in it." 


The university saves $23.50 for every ton it recycles. 


Starkville does not lack interest when it comes to recycling, just funds, said Dumas, who is also a member of the Starkville Board of Aldermen. 


"I think through time, things will level themselves out to where people will start looking at waste and recycling in a different way," Dumas said. "It will be slow to take on, but it will come, even if it is out of necessity."