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Reduce, reuse, recycle: Base recycling center helps Airmen stay eco-friendly

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Curtis Carlisle empties a container filled with metal bands into a large container at the recycling center June 12, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Curtis Carlisle empties a container filled with metal bands into a large container at the recycling center June 12, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Eva Carmona, a regular visitor to McChord's recycling center, places paper products into one of several containers located in the center's parking lot, June 18. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Eva Carmona, a regular visitor to McChord's recycling center, places paper products into one of several containers located in the center's parking lot, June 18. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- As the conveyor belt dumps pieces of cardboard down a long chute into the heart of the bright-blue baler, the 30-horsepower electric motor springs to life and prepares the giant hydraulic press to transform the individual pieces into tightly compressed and neatly tied 1,600-pound bales.

After the bales are spit out, a forklift transports them across the yard to a warehouse where they are housed with other bales of mixed paper, shrink-wrap and used clothing before they are shipped out.

The process is a snapshot of daily life at McChord's recycling center.

Each day employees at the center gather, sort and package everyday items like milk cartons, glass bottles and aluminum cans to bulky items like electronics, computers, washers and dryers.

The center also has several containers used to store large amounts of yard waste until it can be composted.

A contracted company takes care of the center's day-to-day operations, including picking up all of the recycling bags and containers from the many on-base locations, as well as the commissary and curbside pickup in base housing.

"Very few bases have the kind of facility that we have," said environmental flight chief Mike Grenko, 62nd CES.

What McChord does have is a top-notch facility that saved the base nearly $430,000 in refuse disposal costs during the 2006 fiscal year.

The recycling center was able to divert nearly 65 percent of the base's solid waste from going to the landfill, well above the Department of Defense's goal of 45 percent and Air Mobility Command's goal of 60 percent for installations.

Since the environmental flight has been able to maintain continuity within its ranks, it has been able to steadily improve operations at the center, keeping track of all of the recycling participation rates in base housing and recording all of the recycling proceeds, Mr. Grenko said.

Those improvements included doubling the amount of bins accepting recyclable items in front of the center, adding to the number of cardboard trailers around the base and opening the scope of items that the center accepts, said quality assurance manager Doug Skitch, 62nd CES.

"You have to make it convenient, easy and quick for people to participate when it comes to recycling," Mr. Skitch said.

"You're seeing all kinds of piles of yard debris disappearing from all over the base because we can compost it," Mr. Grenko said.

The staff goes to great lengths to find new materials that can be recycled -- even if it means going dumpster diving, Mr. Skitch said.

By expanding the scope of materials that the center accepts, producing and distributing a steady stream of informational brochures about the center and touting the environmental benefits of recycling, Mr. Grenko said he hopes to drive the waste-diversion rate up even higher, while continuing to execute a meaningful mission and maintain an environment sustainability program. 


The following items are recyclable at McChord's recycling center: 
--Electronics and computers
-- Paper
-- Glass
-- Aluminum 
-- Shoes and clothing
-- Phone books
-- Household appliances (washing machines, dryers, ovens, etc.)
--Gas and oil-free yard equipment 
-- Cell phones
-- Toner and ink jet cartridges
-- Pallets
-- Compact discs, DVDs and floppy diskettes 
-- Five-gallon buckets
For more information, call the recycling center at 982-3451.