Recycling: a matter of personal effort, a matter of teamwork

  • Published
  • By Frank A. Duncan
  • 11th Civil Engineer Squadron
In the corner of my office cubicle I have a miniature black trash can and a cardboard box. I place non-recyclable items such as candy wrappers and Styrofoam cups in the trash can. In the cardboard box, I place paper, plastic, glass and anything else remotely recyclable.

Making the choice to recycle is a matter of personal effort. It means taking a few moments to consider what I am getting ready to throw away, and determine if it can be recycled. If it can be recycled, then I place it in the cardboard box. For most paper items, the effort is small. I take a little more effort to rinse the plastic bowls or soda bottles. Then at the end of the month, or whenever the box is full, I sort out the wood fiber materials from the glass, plastic and metals. I then move them into the appropriate large recycling bins in the office area. As a matter of practice, I've adjusted to starving the trash can and feeding the recycling box.

However, I can't help but observe that if only a few people recycle, it does not make much of an impact. I can go to any custodial cart or the dumpsters on base and see a significant amount of recyclable materials going to a landfill. On average, I would estimate that as much as 80 to 90 percent of recyclable materials still end up in the trash.

As such, recycling is also a matter of team work. It begins with each of us taking those extra few moments to place our recyclables into the recycling box and then into the office area recycling bins. We need to ensure our efforts are multiplied by our team mates in the office area. We need to work with our facility managers to ensure there are sufficient large office area bins. Then our facility managers need to work with our recycling contractor to establish pickup schedules and support spring and fall office cleaning.
If we want to see our recycling rates improve, all of us must improve. For us, it should be a matter of doing the right thing. For the environment, however, there is a more definite economical benefit.

For Bolling, it can result in lower solid waste disposal costs (for every ton recycled we save $60 in landfill fees). For our nation, recycling saves energy, fuel and reduces green house gases. For example, if we were to achieve an 80 percent recycling rate, it would equate to eliminating the green house gases generated from about 2,500 cars. With Earth Day 2009 coming up on April 22, this can make a big difference in doing our part to help save our environment. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go.

The key to our success is using the systems we already have in place to their full extent. To get service, call the 11th Civil Engineer Squadron customer service desk at (202) 767-4229/4443/4442. In addition, work with your co-workers and your facility managers to set up the best processes for your office areas. If we all pitch in together, we can make a difference.