Jon Paolone has a passion for educating others to pursue knowledge and practices that can lead to more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions. He believes that lifestyle can help protect the environment.
He rides his bicycle to work from his home in Green Springs whenever he can. The lights in his office are turned off on sunny days. “And all of the furniture in here was recycled from the surplus warehouse,” he adds.
Paolone brings that zeal to his job as UAB’s new recycling coordinator for the Campus Recycling Center. The new facility, which opened March 2, features three recycling compactors. They can accommodate plastic, aluminum, paper and cardboard.
UAB faculty, staff and students are encouraged to bring their materials to the drive-up facility, located at 620 11th St. South in the metal building that formerly housed horses for the Birmingham Police Department. It is open every Monday from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Hours and days may be expanded in the future based on demand.
“We want to be a leader for all things green in the city of Birmingham and eventually in Alabama, since we are the largest employer in the state,” Paolone says. “We’re doing this because we need to be doing it. We want to show we can be green, environmentally friendly and cost efficient, too.”
Cutting solid waste
Approximately 2,231,640 pounds of recyclable materials are collected and recycled each year at UAB.
More than 36,000 pounds of paper have been recycled by the center since early February because of increased efforts by the Department of Facilities Management to bring more recycling options to campus.
Numerous 96-gallon tote containers, provided by American Recycling of Alabama, have been placed in buildings throughout campus to collect paper. The ultimate goal is to cut the solid waste stream by 25 percent.
“That’s a pretty significant amount,” Paolone says. “It will be saving UAB money and helping our environment.”
Paolone hopes paper collecting is just the beginning.
American Recycling of Alabama plans to provide some of the materials needed to collect plastic and aluminum containers. Paolone says the bags needed to collect those materials have been ordered, and he hopes to start collecting those materials on campus later this year.
Paolone says UAB recently agreed to a limited partnership with the Birmingham Zoo to accept their plastic items until their recycling program is implemented.
“It’s good for UAB because we get the revenues from it,” Paolone says. “But we have to separate the plastic from the trash, so it’s a pretty nasty job.”
From Air Force to UAB
Paolone says he’s always been interested in the environment, but his love for it grew during his four years in the Air Force from 1995 to 1999, when he worked in bioenvironmental engineering.
“My career field was an occupational safety and health, environmental protection and nuclear regulatory position rolled into one,” he says.
After the Air Force, Paolone came home to Birmingham and enrolled at UAB with the intent to acquire an Environmental Studies degree. “I had to work with my counselor to individually design my coursework because it is not a standard major,” he says. “It’s offered as a minor, but I wanted to major in it.
“It very much was a conscious decision on my part to take this path.”
Paolone graduated in December 2004 and was hired here in December 2008 specifically to run the Campus Recycling Program.
In addition to collecting materials, Paolone is working to educate the UAB community on the correct way to recycle.
“Don’t hesitate to separate, that’s my mantra,” Pao-lone says. “Bring a container with plastic items, another with paper and cardboard and another with your aluminum.
“It’s not just important that we recycle, it’s also important that we do it correctly.”
Contributed by the UAB Reporter, and written by Tyler Greer.