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Going green saves the state green
No Dumping Here

Many state workers are doing their part to keep the state's open spaces open and save taxpayers money. They've diverted more than 24,000 yards of trash from landfills since 2001, according to Thomas Shook, recycling coordinator for the Texas Building and Procurement Commission (TBPC). The agency oversees a mandatory recycling program in the Austin area, home to 80 state agencies with 40 facilities.

"We collect an average of 9.3 tons of paper a day," Shook said.

That's up from an average of 9 tons a day in recent years, he said.

The recycled materials also save trees and fuel that would have been used to create new materials.

Since 2001, the program has saved 170,000 trees, 51 million gallons of water, 660,000 gallons of oil and enough electricity to power 730 homes for six months, Shook said.

Total cost recovery
Recycled materials also help line the state's coffers, since the program more than pays for itself, Shook said.

"There is a myth that it costs more to make paper with recycled materials than making virgin paper, but that's just not true," he said. "If it wasn't cost-effective, people wouldn't do it."

Austin-based Balcones Resources contracts with TBPC to pick up and recycle paper at 40 state facilities and pays $77 per ton of paper, Shook said.

"Over the past four fiscal years, we've generated $700,000 in revenues and recycled more than 700,000 tons of paper."

TBPC doesn't have a contract for its aluminum recycling program and its pilot plastic recycling program, but it typically sells those materials as salvage at about 40 cents per pound for aluminum and $120 per ton for plastic, Shook said.

"The program is 100 percent cost recovery and pays for 25 percent of the trash removal from all the buildings TBPC manages, so the program pays 100 percent for itself and [for] 25 percent of the waste [removal]," Shook said.

Caring coordinators
TBPC relies on recycling coordinators at each state agency to communicate information about the program to agency employees and to help ensure that employees comply with the recycling mandate, Shook said.

In buildings with active coordinators, the amount of recycled paper TBPC collects is higher per person, Shook said.

Pam Kerr, recycling coordinator with the Public Utility Commission, sends out quarterly e-mails reminding staff to recycle.

"In our copy room, I also hang flyers that Thomas [Shook] creates," Kerr said. "It tells you what goes in a recycling bin and what doesn't go in it."

In 2005, the recycling policy changed to allow all types of paper, not just white computer paper, and employees don't have to remove staples or paper clips from the paper before recycling it, Kerr said. Many of the recycling bins in state buildings, however, are still labeled "white and computer paper," and do not reflect the new policy.

Kerr covered these incorrect bin labels with stickers Shook provided to encourage more recycling, she said.

Ann Woods, recycling coordinator for the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, creates the recycling policy, educates janitorial staff and designates local recycling coordinators who monitor their areas.

"I work with the cleaning crew and make sure they understand what they should be seeing," Woods said. "I had a program in place where if they saw something that shouldn't be in a recycling bin, then they would leave me a note, and I would leave the recycling coordinator in that area a note to discuss it with the employees."

In 2006, Shook will focus on educating state employees about the recycling program and auditing buildings to assess agency compliance, he said.

Angela Freeman