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Revamping recycling

After two years of waiting, Donna Sykes, the Qualified Recycling Program manager for Sheppard AFB, when the recycling center installed a new cardboard baler Nov. 3, 2020.

A worker begins to unload a new cardboard baler from a truck at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Nov. 3, 2020. The baler cost $78,000 to build, transport and install. The process to request, purchase and install the new equipment at Sheppard took about two years. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Ebony Bryant)

After two years of waiting, Donna Sykes, the Qualified Recycling Program manager for Sheppard AFB, when the recycling center installed a new cardboard baler Nov. 3, 2020.

Bales of cardboard sit stacked and ready for sale at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Nov. 3, 2020. Due to COVID-19 the price of recycled materials dropped. However, the recycling center was still able to sell enough materials to buy a brand new baler. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Ebony Bryant)

After two years of waiting, Donna Sykes, the Qualified Recycling Program manager for Sheppard AFB, when the recycling center installed a new cardboard baler Nov. 3, 2020.

An old baler sits at the recycling center waiting to be removed at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Nov. 3, 2020. This baler has baled thousands of tons of cardboard since 2004. The new baler was purchased from revenue collected from the sale of recyclable materials in 2019 and 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Ebony Bryant)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas - After two years of waiting, Donna Sykes, the Qualified Recycling Program manager for Sheppard AFB, when the recycling center installed a new cardboard baler Nov. 3, 2020.

A baler is a machine used to compress different recycled materials into compact bales for easy transportation, sale and storage. This new baler comes with much needed technical and physical upgrades.

The main difference between the old and new baler is a digital touch screen panel that will bring the Sheppard Recycling Center up to date technologically.

The old baler, which was removed early Monday morning, was purchased in 2004 and has baled several hundred tons of cardboard every year. After years of use, it had worn down and deteriorated. It cost the center $5,000 to $10,000 annually to repair.

“We saved the money for it and bought a new one!” Sykes said. “It’s purely one hundred percent by the recycling efforts of… Team Sheppard. Team Sheppard bought this baler.”

The Qualified Recycling Program allows Sykes to sell recycled materials from the base. Currently, Sheppard AFB sells cardboard, metals, paper, used toner cartridges, cooking oil and other commodities. Whatever isn’t sold, the recycling center gives away to prevent contributing to unnecessary landfill.

Just by the sales of these few commodities, Sykes was able to raise the $78,000 needed to purchase the new baler fairly quickly. However, the approval process for acquiring the baler took about two years to complete. Sykes received the approval needed to purchase the baler in April 2020 and it finally made it to the recycling center in November.

The center reported a little over $59,000 in revenue in fiscal year 2019 and $53,000 in fiscal year 2020, according to their bi-annual report. This past year, the center successfully increased its recycling efforts and recycled 1,451.71 tons of materials. They added cooking oil and other commodities to the list of items that they sell rather than give away. These materials are sold to make all kinds of products from brown paper bags to clothing.

“We’re really small fish in the grand scheme of things,” Sykes said. “But we’re really proud of what we do here.”

The efforts of the Recycling Center together with this new baler will help ensure that the base stays environmentally friendly.