UNA is top Florence recycler

Junior Kelsey Woodman throws a plastic bag into an on-campus recycle can. Florence Recycling Coordinator Rachel Mansell said UNA is the city’s biggest recycling contributor.

UNA is a big player when it comes to recycling in Florence. As the city’s top contributor, the university has recycled more than 21 tons of paper this year.

“Because some items are collected by the city from a variety of Florence businesses, it is not possible to track the amount collected from each location,” said Florence Recycling Coordinator Rachel Mansell.

“The 43,000 pounds UNA has sent does not include the cardboard recycling, shredded paper recycling and special event recycling, Mansell said. “It’s really not a full, accurate number. That’s just what has been brought in on trucks from the university.”

Some myths about the university’s recycling program have surfaced across campus through the years.

“One of the biggest misconceptions students have is that (Facilities Administration and Planning) throws away our recycling,” said McKenzie Martin, coordinator of the Outdoor Adventure Center.

Martin said sometimes food and drinks that are thrown in the bins contaminate the recyclables.

“At that point it can no longer be recycled, and it has to go in the trash,” she said.

Mansell said the recyclables are sorted by hand — all materials need to be clean when they come into the center.

Junior Danialle Crooks said he has not heard any rumors of UNA throwing away recyclables, and he has noticed numerous bins on campus.

“I actually know of one organization on campus who has placed recycling bins throughout the classrooms in Stevens Hall,” Crooks said.

He also said he believes recycling is important, and when he has the opportunity to recycle instead of throwing recyclables in the trash, he does.

“Everyone is recycling more these days,” said Florence Director of Solid Waste and Recycling David Koonce. “UNA is looking for ways to do better, and we’ve been working with them.”

Mansell said because UNA is a state agency, it is mandated to recycle at least 25 percent of its trash each year.

There is no cost to the university associated with recycling at the Florence center. All the recycling bins are provided for free thanks to a grant from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, she said.

The recycling center sells the majority of its recyclables to local industries that use them to make products and save money, Mansell said.

“If UNA doubles what it’s taking, and if Florence residences double what we are able to bring in to the facility, then there is going to be a magic number where it actually is cost efficient to recycle,” Mansell said.

Any money the center receives goes toward its operating budget, and officials admit, recently funds have been low because of the market, Koonce said.

“In two years out of 30, we made money,” he said. “We don’t make money on recycling, but we consider it a quality of life.”

Koonce and Mansell said recycling helps companies save on disposal and landfill costs, even if it does not make a profit.

Currently the recycling center accepts paper, metal, cardboard, plastic bottles, electronics, motor oil and cooking oil, Koonce said.

Mansell said the recycling center picks up recyclables everywhere within the city limits, and they can be placed in any container, preferably a white bag, to be picked up.

 “The same day your garbage truck comes by, your recycle truck comes by,” she said.

Editor’s note: News Editor Ashley Remkus contributed to this report.