City Of Topeka Incorporates New Employee Recycling Program

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TOPEKA, Kan. -- City of Topeka employees are doing their part to reduce landfill waste by 50 percent by 2020.

Next to each City employee’s wastebasket now sits a green recycle container to be used for discarded cardboard, aluminum cans, paper, plastics, newspapers, magazines, and envelopes.

The recycling program was established after the City created a policy last year requiring employees to recycle. The policy is based on the City’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (EECS), which was recommended by the Topeka Sustainability Advisory Board and adopted by the City Council in 2010. The EECS is a community-wide strategy that also contains a component specific to municipal government operations. The reduction of landfill waste is one of the goals of the EECS.

“Our recycling effort is yet another example of the leadership role in sustainability and energy efficiency that the City of Topeka has played during these past couple of years in Northeast Kansas,” said Scott Alisoglu, a Funding Analyst in Public Works and City Sustainability Coordinator, noting that Topeka is one of the few municipal governments that have implemented single-stream recycling in its own facilities ahead of any communitywide recycling requirement for residents in Kansas. Waste Management provides that contractual service. A newly established City Green Team is overseeing implementation of the recycling program.

The recycling initiative follows a series of other notable City achievements in sustainability and energy efficiency, including:

- De-lamping of hundreds of light fixtures in city facilities, which was recently featured in an American Public Works Association webinar series; $5,000 savings annually

- Installation of motion sensors in conference rooms and restrooms, which was funded through the federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program, resulting in savings of approximately $2,500 annually and the avoidance of approximately 75 labor hours per year.

- Upgrading of over 400 decorative streetlights along the Washburn/Lane corridor with high efficiency LED fixtures with EECBG funding, which has resulted in almost $28,000 in electricity cost savings since November 2010. That does not include the sharp reduction in labor and equipment costs avoided from the reduction of trips to change burned out lamps. The old lamps had a useful life of around 1 year, the new LED fixtures are 15. This also resulted in 83.6 metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions avoided or roughly the equivalent to the amount generated by 10 single family homes.

- Implementation of a 22-intersection real-time adaptive traffic signal system with EECBG funding. It is estimated that during the Oct-Dec 2011 Quarter, 45,151 gallons of gas were saved, which is equivalent to the reduction of 617 metric tons of CO2 emissions. Based on a price per gallon of $3.40, savings to the consumer for the quarter amounted to $153,513. Six of the final eight signals along the Topeka Blvd corridor begin operating this month, which will result in even higher gasoline savings and CO2 reductions.

- Installation of a solar powered domestic water pre-heating system at Topeka West High School, also funded through the EECBG in the form of a City sub-grant to USD 501. In addition to the reduction in natural gas costs to the school district, the renewable energy aspects of the system have been integrated into the science curriculum. District students are also able to monitor solar energy usage and related metrics via a web portal.

- The recent City Council adoption of an energy efficiency chapter within the City building code, which should positively impact the energy bills for owners of newly constructed homes. Some of the requirements include a mandate that new homes be insulated and that windows meet energy efficiency rating requirements.

- The award of EPA technical assistance to the City under the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program, which will be used to conduct a one-day workshop with area stakeholders on “Using Smart Growth to Produce Fiscal and Economic Health.”

- Designation of Topeka by the Environmental Protection Agency as an Energy Star Version 3.0 pilot program partner for City-constructed homes, the only municipality in the nation receiving that honor.