North Greenville Recycling and Education Center was unveiled and opened to the public at the end of last year.
Credit: City of Greenville North Greenville Recycling and Education Center was unveiled and opened to the public at the end of last year.

A relatively small investment in training paid off in a big way for Greenville, S.C. The city’s only recycling education center opened late last year, thanks in large part to the public works department’s expertise in working with concrete.

Community partners donated land, fill dirt, an air compressor, and paint; the Home Depot Foundation kicked in a $5,000 grant. Even so, the budget was tight. City employees closed much of the gap by doing much of the work themselves.

“The only reason it was built was because we did it with our in-house crews,” says Streets Superintendent Tim Guerin. “Our Building and Maintenance Department did the electrical and plumbing for us and our concrete crews did the rest of the work.”

The 1,000-square-foot North Greenville Recycling and Education Center is the third building his team has built using insulating concrete forms (ICFs), a system of formwork for reinforced concrete that stays in place as a permanent interior and exterior substrate for walls, floors, and roofs. The other two include the remodeling of the Police Training Center and a building at the zoo. “We also stained the concrete floors and built a concrete tree coming out of the inside wall,” he says.

Guerin’s team of 24 cares for 224 miles of streets. In addition to maintaining sidewalks, curbs and gutters, and driveway aprons, they build and maintain 125 miles of concrete pavement and walls the state DOT owns.

The department pays for some classes, like concrete engraving, but most training is free from manufacturers.

“Myself and two other employees went to a two-day class for $150 each to learn how to install ICFs,” he says. “We also stamp, stain, and engrave concrete. These methods would cost double if an outside contractor did the work.”

The recycling center offers free field trips and demonstrations on the benefits of recycling, composting, and waste reduction to local organizations, schools, and individuals. It has an onsite compost bin, rain barrel, six recycling roll-off containers, and a butterfly garden.