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Hey, Texplainer: How much does the Texas Capitol recycle during a legislative session?
During the peak months of the 2011 legislative session — March, April and May — Texas lawmakers and their staffs recycled 72 tons of paper, plastic and aluminum, which brought in about $12,000 to the fund that maintains state buildings, said Dana Williams, director of facilities services for the Texas Facilities Commission. That's almost $10,000 more than the Capitol recycling effort brought in during the 2009 session, even though recycling only increased by 1 ton this session — the result of the rising market price of paper.
Joe Medina, the State Preservation Board's Capitol recycling coordinator, said each of the roughly 300 offices under the Pink Dome have at least one "single-stream" recycling bin — meaning recyclable materials like aluminum and paper don't have to be separated before being tossed. Every night, contractors hired by the State Preservation Board collect the trash and the recycling separately, and take them to a loading dock, where the trash goes into a dumpster and the recycling is left in blue containers for the Facilities Commission to collect in the morning. The Facilities Commission then takes the recycling to a vendor that buys it from the state. The vendor sets the price based on the demand for recycled paper.
The Capitol recycling program is a good deal for the state. By selling the recyclables to vendors, the state raises money that goes toward the upkeep of government buildings. This money complements the maintenance budget, which comes out of taxpayers' pockets and is set by legislators.
The Capitol is hardly the only state building that recycles; state law mandates that all government buildings have a recycling program. In all, the recyclables from the 40 state buildings the Facilities Commission manages brought in about $93,000 for the months of March through May of this year.
Bottom line: Tree huggers hearing rumors that the contents of Capitol recycling bins are dumped into the trash at night can rest easy.
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