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All a load of valuable rubbish

Stephen Hoare looks at the benefits of waste paper recycling.

The paper manufacturer's sales pitch calls it paper money and that is exactly what waste paper can represent for any school that joins a commercial recycling scheme.

Kingswood Primary in Kent started collecting rubbish six months ago when the local papermill, Aylesford Newsprint, installed two wheeled bins in the playground. The village school near Leeds castle is collecting nearly half a tonne of paper a week mainly through the involvement of parents.

Chairman of the parents' and friends association Diane Gutteridge says: "With 90 families in the village we've had a lot of support from local businesses like the travel agent who gives us all their surplus paper and brochures which bulks it up a bit. We had our first cheque for Pounds 50 before Christmas but we're earning a lot more than that now."

Aylesford Newsprint is one of Britain's biggest producers of recycled paper, and each year the company consumes 450,000 tonnes of paper waste to produce 370,000 tonnes of newsprint - the reels of paper that newspapers are printed on. The demand took off last May when Aylesford opened Europe's biggest recycled paper mill in Kent, tripling the firms original 90,000 tonne output. It had to look urgently for new sources of paper besides waste collectors and council recycling depots to keep the mill supplied and schools were an obvious choice.

Lynne Overett of Aylesford Newsprint says: "Children are very enthusiastic recyclers and the environment is part of the national curriculum. It is an ideal way of fund raising for projects like a school mini-bus".

Kingswood was part of a pilot project involving 150 schools originally contacted by a mail shot. The full scheme is only been up and running three months and now covers most of southern Britain. To date 600 schools are signed up and collecting. They receive quarterly payments based on a guaranteed minimum of Pounds 30 a tonne. Mrs Overett says: "Schools are averaging about Pounds 60 to Pounds 70 a month."

Aylesford supplies the bins - estimated to hold 300 kilos of paper each. Weekly or monthly collections are arranged with the school depending on how fast the bins are filled and schools can have two or more bins.

Hart District Council, north-east Hampshire, approached Aylesford to help with its recycling initiative and recycling officer Angela Bethell is hoping the scheme will be adopted by about half of the 40 schools that come within the council's area. Like other council's, Hart has an obligation to meet the government's environmental target of recycling 25 per cent of its waste by the year 2000.

Ms Bethell sees schools as an important part of its own campaign to raise public awareness and recycle more waste. "Schools aren't themselves big generators of rubbish but when you have 200 pupils and their parents involved there's a huge potential for paper collecting and fund raising and the schools will save money on refuse collection".

As paper makes up the bulk of a school's waste, money saved on refuse collection could in Hart's area work out at about Pounds 400 a year for a primary of 250 pupils.

But one problem Angela Bethell warns about is that the paper bins could be a target for arsonists. But Aylesford has anticipated the concern and, according to Lynne Overett, bins are designed to starve any fire of oxygen making fires impossible to light. She says: "We've had no problem at all."

Aylesford Newsprint: 01622 796000

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