Little Rock recycling rescues resources

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Regina Agoha
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
In one year, the base' s recycling center saved $625,646 and made $270,715 more by recycling nearly 5 million pounds of would-be trash, which would have been rotting in a landfill, into recycled treasure.

While the prospect of recycling seems easy, there's a lot more that goes into winning the war against waste other than dumping plastics, glass and papers into a couple of green bins.

"It's a federal environmental law and an executive order that we recycle," said Lynn Shaw, 19th Civil Engineer Squadron recycling manager. "Due to the size of our facility, we are supposed to do a minimum of recycling newspaper, office paper and metal. Our current Air Force goal is to have a 50 percent diversion rate by year 2015. Out of all the solid waste we generate on base, at least 50 percent of it we're supposed to recycle. We finished this fiscal year at 51 percent, so we are usually ahead of the curve."

Recycling conserves natural resources, saves energy, and it's cheaper than sending garbage to the landfill, said Shaw. "When we recycle, 60 percent of the time, we get money back for it."

"For aluminum cans alone, weighing one half ounce, (30 cans equal 1 pound), we are only earning around $5,310 each year," said Shaw. "According to the Little Rock Air Force Base fact sheet, we could be making much more. With the base population at more than 7,000 active-duty military and civilian members, and about 5,500 family members, assuming that only half of the total population, (6,250 people), drink soda and if each person recycles one can per day, (208.3 lbs of aluminum), if the conservative numbers were $0.50 /lb, the base could make: $104.16 per day, $520.83 per week, $2,083.33 per month and $25,000 per year. There is lots of room for growth."

Money gained from recycling programs helps the recycling center buy equipment, pay for the labor to run the center and bring down the cost of the program and its operation, said Shaw.

Recycling not only gives green dollar bills back to the base but it also helps keep the earth green by diverting waste from the landfill, said Shaw. Landfills are piled with garbage that just rots away. Two Pines landfill is where the base takes trash that can't be recycled. Its south cell is closed and another cell north of I-440 has been opened. It is projected in 2020 the new landfill will be completely filled.

"Anytime we recycle, we're diverting stuff from the landfill and doing our part," Shaw said. "The landfill is like a prison, we have to have them but nobody wants them in their backyard. It is also a strain on our natural resources. It takes less energy to make aluminum cans out of an old aluminum can than to process oil and then make the aluminum to make a new aluminum can. The same thing holds true with paper, cardboard and glass.

Recycling has been incorporated in the environmental management system, said Shaw. "EMS is a tool/process to identify and mitigate threats to the environment. In this sense our environment includes everything around us enabling us to carry out the Air Force mission. Each threat is labeled as an aspect. An aspect that can interfere with the mission or subject the base to legal/regulatory actions from outside is elevated to a significant aspect. Little Rock Air Force Base included recycling as a significant aspect which ensures program awareness by senior base leadership," he said.

Sorting out different types of paper before just tossing them in the recycling bin is a great help for recycling employees, said Shaw. If recyclers know exactly how and where to recycle certain items, it could cut down a lot of wasted time at the recycling center.

"The whole facility is set up to maximize our man hours and cash flow," he said. "If you have to handle material more than once, then you're wasting time. That's the point of having everyone sort their papers out in the three bags that should be located in their office. Cardboard boxes are to be broken down and together. Aluminum cans and plastic bottles are to be separate so when it gets to the center, it can be put in its right place to be processed with like material. That would cut down on the labor cost and up the profit."

The 19th CES recycling site manager, Gary Kohrs, urges each generation to teach the next that recycling is not only good to do, but it's important and needed. "Sooner or later," Kohrs said, "there's going to be no more room for landfills. The trash is getting into the water and our vegetation. The more people know about recycling the better things will be," he said.