Robins recycles its way to a greener tomorrow

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78 ABW/PA
Robins is the leading recycler in Air Force Materiel Command, but that isn't stopping environmental officials here from trying to take the program to a new level.

As a part of that effort, the Environmental Management Division has been doing a little Dumpster diving. Checking both Dumpsters and office trash cans, it's determined that quite a lot of the base's landfill-bound refuse can be recycled.

About half of the trash at Robins is recyclable paper, said Ken Wharam, recycling program manager. Much of the other half is plastics, cardboard, aluminum cans and other items that can also be recycled.

"When you think about it, there's not much in your trash that you have to throw away," he said.

The trash study is part of an effort to develop a plan for new funding the department received to expand its recycling program. One possibility is a new drop-off recycling center.

Why should people recycle? In addition to saving landfill space, it saves the base money, said Environmental Management Division Chief Becky McCoy.

"The cost that we spend to throw things away and landfill it more than makes up for the expense of recycling," Ms. McCoy said.

Landfill costs, including the pickup, transportation and tipping fees, are about $186 per ton, Mr. Wharam said.

It also makes the base money.

Robins pays Happy Hour Service Center, which employs the developmentally disabled, to pick up recyclable material, package it, and sell it. Happy Hour gives the base back part of the proceeds from the sale of the material.

Most buildings on base should have at least one indoor recycling center in which white and mixed paper, newspaper, plastics, and aluminum cans can be discarded. Additionally, the main outdoor recycling center accepts cardboard, and several Dumpsters on base are designated for cardboard.

The main recycling center was located in the parking lot in front of the Furniture Store near the 78th Air Base Wing headquarters, but the center has recently been relocated to an area behind the Base Exchange. Outdoor recycling centers are also located at the Museum of Aviation and in base housing areas.

Plastics that can be recycled include Type 1 and Type 2 plastics. Type 1 plastics include soft drink bottles, water bottles and plastic food jars. Those can be used in the manufacture of carpet, fleece jackets and food and drink containers. Type 2 plastics include detergent and bleach bottles, milk bottles, shampoo bottles, grocery bags and cereal box liners. Recycled uses of those include non-food containers, outdoor decking and recycling bins.

Nearly all of the outdoor benches and tables at Robins are made from recycled plastics, including a new gazebo in the rear of the Environmental Management Division.

But the recycling program here goes far beyond recycling what goes into the ordinary trash can. The base also recycles scrap metals, used oils, plastic media blast, industrial sludge, yard and stable waste, toner cartridges, grease, electronics, tires and lead-acid batteries.

The yard waste is taken to a Robins facility where it is made into compost, which is then reused in landscaping projects around the base.

"At one time we would pay someone to haul that stuff off base, then when we needed compost, we would pay someone to haul it back on base," Mr. Wharam said.