• Published
  • By Capt. Tony Vincelli
  • 124 Fighter Wing
Dumpster inspection reveals wing's recycling program needs improvement

Nothing will give you a better idea of how good your base recycling efforts are than a good old-fashioned dumpster dive.

That is exactly what Senior Airman Heidi Caye and Master Sgt. Robert McGarvie did Feb. 28 as they donned white suits, protective eyewear and blue latex gloves and jumped into the large green dumpster behind Bldg. 400. The bold move was the first step in what Caye, who works full-time as an environmental protection specialist for the joint Air-Army environmental office, describes as "a process" of evaluating and improving the Air Guard's recycling program.

She and McGarvie, a bioenvironmental engineer from the 124th Medical Group, sifted through trash bags looking for aluminum cans, cardboard, plastic water bottles and other recyclable materials mixed in with trash rather than in the familiar blue bins.

Using a grid fabricated by the civil engineer squadron that was placed on top of the trash, they were able to establish a percentage of how much of it was actually recyclable.

"It was surprising to see that more than half of the material we inspected was recyclable," said Caye.

Even more surprising, she said, was that much of the material was obvious items like plastic bottles, shredded paper and aluminum cans.

According to Caye, their initial inspections will establish a baseline to determine how much material we throw away is actually recyclable. These benchmarks will launch education, process improvements and enduser acceptance leading up to the Environmental, Safety, and Occupational Health Compliance Assessment Management Program inspection scheduled for September, and beyond.

Once a baseline is established and process improvements are made over the next several months, follow-on inspections conducted quarterly will hopefully show improvements over time, said Caye.

According to McGarvie, with buy-in from wing members, improvements to the wing's recycling efforts will be made easier because of the quality of Gowen Field's recycling program.

"We have to change our culture out here when it comes to recycling. It's not like we have to start from scratch.

The base already has a good recycling program in place; we just have to get everyone working together as a team to improve. One or two people isn't going to make a difference," said McGarvie.

According to Caye, wing work centers have always shown an eagerness to work on environmental efforts like this in the past, and she expects the recycling program to be no different.

"They are very engaged; they want to do the right thing," said Caye. "We need to educate them, find out what we can do to make it easier for them and I think it will go very smoothly."