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Improve Cost Effectiveness of Your Recycling Program, Part 2

Ah, that magical moment when you lift up the couch cushions to clean and find money that had fallen between the cushions. It’s never enough for big expenses like the rent or mortgage, but sometimes it can be enough to get something you didn’t think you had enough money for, especially if you save it up over time.

A while back, I wrote a couple of blog posts about funding. They focused primarily on outside funding. But rather than just looking for outside funding sources, have you looked to see whether there are ways to enhance the revenues that you receive for your recyclables to get you the extra funding that you need? What items on your wish list could you fund if you took advantage of those opportunities?

Do you have filet mignon that you are selling as ground beef? Have you looked at that before you ask someone else for money? By weight, most of the traditional recyclables on a college campus are high grade printing and writing papers.

The internet has had a significant impact on the composition of campus paper and the amount of low-grade papers on campus. You typically no longer have computer supply catalogs mailed to the IT folks daily (those ones that were the size of the Sears Toy Catalog I remember as a kid every winter). Yes, there are still catalogs and magazines mailed to students, but nothing like what we used to see in the 1980s and 90s. Even the under-the-mattress magazines that used to be a notable component of the paper in the residence halls has been replaced by the internet (long-gone are the days when I used to be able to get student workers or staff to help me sort through the paper in exchange for me letting them keep any of those magazines that they found in the process). And campus newspapers, like newspapers everywhere are feeling pressure from the internet. Some have gotten smaller. Some have switched from daily printing to weekly printing with daily updates on their website, Facebook page, and/or Twitter feed. What remains is a lot of printing and writing paper. A lot of people still print themselves a copy of all those forms and syllabi and other documents that are distributed electronically. Every student with an inkjet printer and a ream of paper can now produce flyers in the quantities only a few clubs could afford in the 1980’s. And instead of clipping newspaper articles, students print a copy from the internet on – yup you guessed it – high-grade printing and writing paper.

If you can keep out the pizza boxes and cereal boxes, I think most campuses could market their paper as a high-grade sorted office pack. Are you realizing the higher prices that mills pay for that sorted office pack, or are you selling it as the lowest quality mixed paper you can?

The same is true of another prevalent recyclable on campus: corrugated cardboard. How many locations on campus do you have where significant quantities of cardboard are already segregated, places like custodial supply rooms, shipping receiving areas, warehouses? Are you recovering that already-segregated material in a way that maximizes its value? Or are you commingling that cardboard with other materials and then paying someone else further down the line to separate it back out to the state you started with? While commingling may be necessary from smaller stops that don’t generate much material, it may be a lost opportunity in areas that generate most of your cardboard.

How much loose change do you have that you don’t realize? If you are searching for funding for your program, should you be doing more to realize the value of the products you have before you ask outsiders for money to help fund your program?

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Roger Guzowski

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