Recycling takes a bite out of trash

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Two recycling centers on the Academy are making it easier to lighten the load of household trash -- and maybe stash some cash at the same time.

The first recycling center outside the base exchange in the Community Center is open 24/7 with bins for recycling plastic, paper, metals, cardboard and glass. Pick-ups are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

"Drop-N-Swap" is open in Building 8125 near the 10th Civil Engineer Squadron Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for recycling or picking up reusable household products such as cleaners, paints, pesticides, fertilizer, used oil, antifreeze and non-alkaline batteries, including car batteries.

"(Recycling is) not only the right thing to do, it's very easy to do," said Jeanie Duncan, Academy environmental program manager.

Ms. Duncan said it is a great way to save money on home projects that, for example, may only require a small amount of a still-usable product such as paint or deck stain. Also, it is a way for service members and their families who are moving on to another duty station to help out others and safely dispose of products household moving companies may prohibit.

All items for Drop-N-Swap must be in the original containers.

The Academy recycled 8.4 million pounds of material and disposed of 13.1 million pounds of trash in 2009, which equates to a 39 percent diversion rate of refuse from landfills. At the Community Center site, the Academy recycled 288,540 pounds of cardboard, 539,210 pounds of paper, 55,370 pounds of aluminum, 125,810 pounds of plastic and 243,900 pounds of glass. The Academy also recycles bulk scrap metal, concrete and asphalt, various recyclable hazardous wastes, used cooking oils, biosolids, toner cartridges and government-owned electronics.

Ms. Duncan said recycling not only helps reduce landfill waste, it can also reduce the amount of trash from households, saving people money in terms of trash pickup fees.

A plastic water bottle can remain in a landfill for 500 years, depending on the climate. Aluminum, although a naturally occurring element, can remain in a landfill anywhere from 50 to100 years. On the other hand, aluminum cans are the most widely and efficiently recycled, and, within 24 hours, a whole new can may be manufactured from the recycled aluminum, Ms. Duncan said.

"Recycling should be a part of everyday activities," she said. "Once you establish a system of recycling it becomes easy to do."

She also said it is advantageous to get the kids involved: "They will grow up, and it will become automatic."

Ms. Duncan said buying items in bulk can also pare down the amount of household trash. Reducing product use is part of the "recycle, reduce, reuse" motto for resource conservation. She asks people who use the recycling center to only leave recyclable items at the recycling sites and ensure cardboard is clean and free from grease and other food items.

"If non-recyclables get into a bin, it will contaminate the whole container," she said.
The sites are not dumping grounds for furniture and used appliances, which have been discovered there in the past, she said. Anyone found leaving non-recyclable materials at the site may face fines.

Future recycling events include celebration of Earth Day in Douglass Elementary School in April and an electronic recycling event from November 2010 to the end of January 2011. The last electronic recycling event drew about 4,000 pounds of electronics to be recycled.