Story and photos by Robin Hartman
In a year that has seen the recycling industry take two steps back, the Kentucky Division of Waste Management’s Kentucky Government Recycling Section (KGRS) is helping the environment by repurposing the state’s used paper, cardboard and books.
A small group of seven full-time and three temporary employees works with enthusiasm to provide recycling services to state agencies in Frankfort. KGRS collects white office paper, colored office paper, cardboard, newsprint and mixed paper from offices on a weekly basis. They also recycle books and wood pallets, advise agencies on plastic, glass, aluminum, and electronics recycling, and provide free document destruction services. KGRS collects and recycles nearly 45,000 pounds of material each week.
“As a government entity, we’re not for-profit,” said Brian Bentley, Environmental Scientist with the Division of Waste Management. “If we can keep servicing state agencies, saving on document destruction costs, and recycling all the paper generated by state government operations, we’re decreasing government’s footprint on the environment.”
Countries like China, on whom U.S. consumers depend to purchase recyclable material, have recently tightened their standards for the cleanliness of the product. First it was plastics, and in May of this year, standards were raised on paper products as well. As a result, many cities across the country have suspended recycling operations. Lexington, for example, has halted paper recycling until further notice.
But KGRS continues to operate regardless of industry fluctuations in part because it makes it convenient for state workers to recycle, so items are correctly sorted, and there is very little contamination.
Paper is shredded and compacted into 1,400-pound bales, loaded onto semi-trailers, delivered, and eventually recycled into new white paper, cups, plates or paper towels. Colored paper becomes tissue paper; cardboard is made into new cardboard, newspaper into new newsprint, and phone books become new phone books or insulation.
What started as a small initiative on Riley Road in 1982 has grown into a state-of-the-art operation that saves state agencies hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in document destruction and disposal fees, while generating revenue that partially supports division operations.
“We have an advantage over your typical recycling center,” says Timmy Bryant, Environmental Control Supervisor at KGRS. “Because we limit our product, we’re able to provide different bins, and our material arrives somewhat clean and pre-sorted. As long as we educate employees about what should and shouldn’t be placed in the bins, we reduce our contamination rate.”
The recycling facility, at 115 Northgate Drive, exceeds OSHA standards with its paper-shredding and bailing equipment, a dust collection system, cardboard bailer, and more. Two new collection trucks have been purchased in the past four years with two more coming in the next few months. These new diesel trucks will replace ones that are more than 14 years old.