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Recycling: Preserving our environment for future generations

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Arielle Vasquez
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Materials such as plastic, paper and cardboard are essential resources used on a daily basis. Recycling instead of discarding these items can reduce pollution, lower greenhouse gas emissions and preserve the environment for generations to come.

The Arc Light Recycling Center on Andersen Air Force Base ensures the base is doing its part by recycling as much waste materials as possible, and that Airmen are contributing to waste reduction and a cleaner environment.

"We try to divert as much material out of the waste stream so it doesn't end up in the landfill," said Joe Igisaiar, Arc Light Recycling Center site manager. "...We live on an island where there's nowhere to go, so eventually we will get to that point where there is no choice but to recycle."

The recycling center opened in 1998, allowing people to drop off their recyclable materials as well as providing recycling bins to military members on base, in order to do their part. Approximately 1,150 bins are currently provided for military housing residents.

Typically 40 to 50 percent of trash is recyclable material, which then goes to the recycling center, Igisaiar said. The base recycling center processes an average of 800 tons annually.

"Recycling is, and should be a way of life," said Thomas Spriggs, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Flight chief. "Recycling prevents pollution and limits the use of pristine and limited land resources for landfilling.  Landfilling can impact groundwater which is a major source of drinking water. Recycling also allows products and materials to be used to their fullest extent, thereby limiting the use of raw materials and natural resources."

The recycling center uses multi-material baler machines, which compress recyclable materials such as cardboard, newspapers and magazines to save storage space. Once the materials are compressed, blocks are formed which are then put in 40-foot containers for the vendors, making it easier to transfer off base for more processing. On average, the center fills three containers a month.

To make recycling more effective, the work crews will take solid waste to the transfer station and extract recyclable materials, metal and wood found before it is taken to the landfill. The purpose is to recover as much materials in each truckload and do a prescreening of the waste before it is transported off base, where there will be another evaluation of the materials.

"Having a recycling program helps lessen material in landfills, but it also extends the life of the current landfill so it doesn't fill up as fast," said Igisaiar. "People don't realize they are actually doing their part by diverting (recyclables) from a landfill. We need to do our part and keep the island beautiful especially for next generation."

Recyclables accepted on base include plastics (types 1 and 2), cardboard, magazines, paper (office and shredded), any color glass and aluminum.

"Remember the three R's: Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle, and make it routine," Spriggs said. "Reduce the generation of waste by buying reusable over disposable items and look for products that use less packaging and promote re-use by purchasing used items or donating your used items to help others.  Help recycling efforts by buying recycled products and products that can be recycled, and participate by turning in all unusable recyclable items to recycling centers."