LUMBERTON — The Public Schools of Robeson County could save as much as $100,000 a year in waste disposal costs if a pilot recycling program administered by the county’s Department of Solid Waste gets the go-ahead from school officials.
Steve Edge, the county’s Solid Waste director, said that he has not yet discussed the proposal with school officials, but plans to do so shortly.
“Every year before the start of a new school year I get calls from individual schools saying they want recycling programs,” Edge said. “In the past we haven’t had the resources to do it, but now we have a new recycling coordinator to run the program. I think this is a good time to see if it works. I think this program would be very successful.”
Edge said that the pilot program would include placing 10- to 12-ton compactors at four of the larger schools, including Lumberton, Purnell Swett and St. Pauls high schools. A fourth school, probably another high school, has not been selected, he said.
When the compactors are full, the recyclables will be transported to Pratt Recycling in Fayetteville, where they will be sorted, baled and sold on the market. Edge said that a lot of money won’t be generated by the project, but it could cover the cost of fuel and travel associated with the current system of collecting and disposing of waste from the schools.
“This is not a money maker, but it will prevent a significant amount (between 2,300 and 2,500 tons a year) of recyclables going into the county landfill (in St. Pauls), he said. “It will reduce the number of trucks we have on the road, save on fuel, and then maybe leave us a little bit of revenue left over.”
Edge said that currently his department picks up 162 front loader containers of trash from 46 school system sites. He said with the new compactors — which contain an automated system for alerting his department when they are filled — the number of times trips are made to sites can be reduced from two to three times a week to one or two times a month.
Edge said that the schools currently pay about $300,000 a year for waste disposal. The proposed recycling program could save $100,000 a year, he said.
Plans are for the recycling program, if successful, to eventually be implemented at all of the public schools in the county.
“When all of the schools are recycling it would cut out about 75 percent of the schools waste stream,” Edge said.
According to Edge, if school officials decide to participate in the pilot program, the program can probably be up and running shortly after the beginning of the new school year.
Kristina Cummings, the recycling coordinator who would oversee administration of the program, said that the pilot meets the county’s goal of making recycling easily accessible to everyone in the county.
“If students recycle at the schools, hopefully they will then do it at home,” she said.
On Monday, Edge updated the county commissioners on the program and received their support to pursue it with school officials.
“It will be like the schools getting additional finances without putting a burden on taxpayers,” Edge said.