For the city of Birmingham, it could pay to recycle - and not just in the feel-good currency of environmental savings, but in real green, too.
A 25-year-old business student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville concluded, after four months of research, that the city could make as much as $1.8 million over 10 years. Birmingham just needs to boost its 1 percent recycling participation rate to 25 percent, said Herve Billiet, who has taken his research to City Hall.
"The only thing that has to change is the people have to know the program is out there and put their recyclables out, and the city can make about $180,000 a year," said Billiet, a Birmingham resident who is also an engineer.
The reduction in landfill waste would save $18,000 annually in state fees on garbage, too, he found.
Here's Billiet's math, simplified: Disposing of trash in a landfill costs the city about $22 a ton, according to his research. Selling recyclable materials generates $10 a ton in revenue. So if Birmingham reduces its landfill waste and increases its sale of recyclable materials, it can start making money through its recycling program.
Billiet, who did his research through an internship with the Alabama Environmental Council, said cities often pay private companies to administer their recycling programs, but Birmingham runs its own.
"Since Birmingham processes it themselves, they have a phenomenal opportunity, basically," said Michael Churchman, executive director of the Alabama Environmental Council. "Unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot of publicity or education and a lot of people are uninformed about what opportunities are available."
Billiet, who grew up in Brussels, is used to recycling everything. The government mandates that citizens recycle.
"It's a habit, just like brushing your teeth," said Billiet, who is working on his master's degree in business administration. "You don't wonder why or how."...
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