UK aids Lexington in national recycling competition

By C.J. Conklin

Students may notice some of the 200 new recycling bins on campus today.

The bins, managed by UK’s Physical Plant Division, are part of Lexington’s participation in the U.S. Conference of Mayors City Recycling Challenge for October.

The challenge is a nationwide competition among groups of cities with similar population ranges to see which can recycle the most aluminum cans.

Even last October, when UK wasn’t under the pressure of competition, the university recycled nearly 117,000 cans, weighing approximately 3,250 pounds, said Tom Gregory, Physical Plant Division Recycling Coordinator. He said his team has already shown that it can work hard to recycle.

“It took us until Tuesday afternoon to clean up the trash from the Louisville football game, even though we started right after the game,” Gregory said. “A lot of that was aluminum cans spread out all across the campus.”

Lexington and Louisville compete in Division 1, which includes cities with a population of 250,000 or more. Bowling Green, the other Kentucky city in the competition, is in Division 3, according to the competition organizers’ Web site (


In previous years, the competition lasted for two weeks in mid-September, but this year it will last throughout October. More than 82 million cans were collected in the two weeks last year; 3,780,000 of those, or about 4.6 percent, were from Fayette County.

Last year, Lexington’s first year in the competition, the city won the $5,000 award in the Most Innovative Ideas Category for its “Yes We CAN” campaign, according a Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government news release. This year, however, Lexington looks to do even more.

“This year we are getting the schools involved,” said Tom Webb, Lexington’s environmental compliance coordinator. “The Southeast Center for Aluminum Technology, Wise Recycling, Harry Gordon Steel Company and Baker Iron & Metal are teaming up to award cash prizes for the public and private schools that collect the most cans per student.”

Berea, Ky., is home to “the world’s largest factory for processing cans,” said Steve Feese of Lexington’s Division of Solid Waste.

“Every two out of six cans are recycled in Kentucky, which is a very high number,” Feese said. “Then those cans get back on the shelf within 6-10 weeks.”

Recycling only one can saves enough energy to power a television for nearly three hours, according to the news release. It takes 95 percent less energy to recycle and reuse a can than it does to create a new one from raw materials.

The competition organizers hope to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling, according to their Web site, especially considering that on average, an American drinks 370 beverages in aluminum cans each year.