Small ECU Recycling Team Generates Colossal Results
By Christine Neff
More than a million. That’s the number of pounds of recyclable waste a special team of employees at East Carolina University diverted from the landfill this past fiscal year.
That’s more than a million pounds of cardboard, paper, aluminum and plastic drink containers, hardback books, scrap metal and wood that won’t be taking up space in a landfill, but will be recycled and put to new uses.
That’s pretty amazing.
“We’re proud of it,” said Terry Little, coordinator of the ECU Recycling Department.
“It’s really neat at the end of the month to get the collection numbers from my crew leader and see how far we have come since just last year.”
And here’s another amazing number for you: four.
That’s the size of Little’s crew. Just four fulltime staff members here at ECU collected, sorted and delivered those 1,065,278 pounds of recyclables to a local material recovery facility, ECVC.
Recently, that hardworking team coordinated by Little and made up of Billy Winslow, Jimmy Meeks, Danny Braxton and Ed House, was recognized by the City of Greenville with an Environmental Awareness Award. The city’s Environmental Advisory Commission presents the awards annually to an individual, organization, institution and business that demonstrate exemplary work in an environmental area.
“The ECU Recycling Department takes their job very seriously,” said John Gill, assistant director of Facilities Services at ECU, in his award nomination. “In each of the last five years, the university has decreased the amount of waste taken to the landfill and significantly increased the amount of materials recycled. That says a great deal about the work ethic and motivation of this dedicated group.”
The group services every university-owned or leased building on the main campus, Health Sciences campus and West Research campus, reaching more than 200 buildings in a week.
One employee spends his days collecting mixed paper from various locations. Other crew members pick up cardboard and empty recycling containers that can now be found in residence halls, dining halls, campus buildings and in 14 permanent outdoor sites. Wooden delivery pallets are broken down and recycled. Even hardback books no longer of use to Joyner Library meet an environmentally friendly end. The crew recycled 40,000 books last year.
The program continues to expand with more containers being put in more locations and at more convenient times. The placement of 50 recycling containers at special events, such as football and baseball games, Barefoot on the Mall and Pirate Palooza, has been a very successful new initiative.
“The commingled drink containers are a growing source of materials,” Little said. “That collection has really taken off, and we hope to expand this part of the job even more in the next five years.”
Growth is also driven by increased interest in recycling by students, faculty members and staff, Little said.
Paper and cardboard remain the “bread and butter of what we do,” according to Little. ECU has a contract with ECVC, earning money for every pound of paper that’s recycled. Little said the earnings are substantial enough to pay a yearly salary. Funds are often used to purchase educational resources and additional collection bins.
Little, who came into his position with a business degree and working experience in Moving Services, embraces the environmental benefits of recycling but stresses the financial pay off as well.
“Every ton of material we deliver to the recycling center is a ton of waste we do not have to take to the landfill and pay tipping fees for, and we actually make money on some of these items. From a financial standpoint, this is a very cost effective way of handling our waste disposal,” he said.
He and his team appreciate the citywide recognition that came with the Environmental Awareness award, and want the university community to know they will continue to work hard to improve the campus, the city and the environment.
“We were all appreciative of the recognition for the hard work this team does and the exposure it has given to our recycling efforts on campus,” Little said. “This is a great crew.”