A change to recycling attitude

  • Published
  • By Wayne Fowler
  • Defense Support Services Environmental Contract Consultant
There's a phrase that states, "if we keep doing the same old thing, in the same old way, we'll continue to get the same old result."

Every year a team of trained assessors conduct an environmental, safety and occupational health evaluation. It is almost guaranteed that one of the discrepancies that will be found during the assessment will be "recyclables found in dumpsters," even though each container clearly states recyclables should not be discarded within a trash dumpster.

Much of that is the result of recyclables being placed in individual trash receptacles under or beside desks. Others find it more convenient to take their cardboard to the nearest dumpster rather than find a proper recycling bin. Why does this happen?

It's certainly not because Sheppard doesn't have a viable recycling program in place. Every facility has a designated recycling monitor. These monitors cannot routinely survey every individual trash receptacle in their facility. Therefore, individuals are responsible for emptying their own waste baskets, and that seems to have increased the amount of recyclables in the trash.

So how do we stop doing the same old things in the same old way? It all comes down to attitude.

Here are a few of the attitudes and a reasonable "attitude adjustment" solution:

"What difference does my sheet of paper, plastic bottle or aluminum can make?"

With that attitude, simply multiply that by the population on Sheppard. How many reams of paper or pounds of aluminum cans, plastic bottles or cardboard are now going to the landfill if everybody has that attitude?

"I don't have any place to put my recyclables"

Most of the cardboard boxes we find in dumpsters are smaller boxes, such as office paper boxes, which would make an excellent paper and cardboard recycling container. It works for me. The recycling monitors can obtain small plastic recycling containers for bottles and cans. When they're at capacity, take a couple of minutes to empty them at your facility's centralized pick-up point.

"We just received a large order of materials/supplies and there's more cardboard than we have room to store, we have to clean it up now."

Don Smith, Defense Support Services recycling supervisor, and his recycling staff will gladly provide a special pick-up by calling them at 940-676-4600. Don't forget the drive-through recycling drop-off location is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"I've heard it cost more to recycle than to landfill."

With marginal participation that is certainly true. However, every ton of material recycled increases revenues and decreases the landfill cost. Landfill costs will continue to rise, and future generations will find it more difficult to find space for landfills. That's already a problem in parts of the United States. Furthermore, every installation must recycle in accordance with Executive Orders 13423 and 13514 and Air Force Instruction 31-7080, paragraph 3.4.1. That's not optional.

So, the next time a recyclable item is thrown in a waste basket because it's sitting conveniently under a desk, take a couple of minutes and place recycle containers in an equally convenient location. It's not only the right thing to do, it's the law.