Heidelberg's Rumbling Rubbish teaches residents fine art of recycling
Marty Hanson, an environmental protection specialist for U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg and Marcus Ecker, a sanitation inspector with the city of Heidelberg, inspect the refuse containers in a recycling island on Heidelberg's Mark Twain Village Feb. 25. The two men were performing the inspections to develop a baseline before the residents begin the 15-week Rumbling Rubbish program, an education program designed to teach Army Family Housing residents how to properly recycle, so the garrison can reduce the amount to non-recyclable waste, reducing the impact on the environment and the impact on the garrison's budget.

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- In many communities in the U.S. recycling is still a do-it-yourself chore normally taken on by college professors, retirees and a few ecologically-minded individuals.

In U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg, everyone should be taking part, not only to protect the planet and to adhere to policy, but to benefit the collective pocketbook.
Each week the city of Heidelberg picks up waste from 295 recycling islands throughout Army Family Housing.

The largest expense for the garrison is the grey rubbish containers, which cost Ac'A!62 per container per week, regardless of how full the containers are.

One way the garrison has decided to reduce costs is to reduce the size of the rubbish containers from 1,100 liters to 660 liters, at a cost savings of Ac'A!25 per week, per stairwell.

To accomplish this feat, however, the garrison relies on residents to recycle correctly.
In the past, members of the operations and maintenance division and the environmental division of the Directorate of Public Works, sorted through a full rubbish container, and discovered that 85 percent of the 'rubbish' was recyclable.

The effort to educate the Soldiers and family members in family housing has fallen on the shoulders of Travis Vowinkel, the solid waste manager for USAG Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg.

He came up with Rumbling Rubbish - "Keep it Green," an education program now entering its second phase, and a new set of stairwells.

"The idea behind Rumbling Rubbish actually started a decade ago, when we started constructing the recycling islands," Vowinkel said, noting that they paid for themselves in 21/2 years.

A test phase of 10 stairwells - finished in June - and Phase I with 73 stairwells - finished in December - will net a cost avoidance of nearly Ac'A!83,000 per year or about Ac'A!1,000 per stairwell per year. That's about $110,000 that can go to other mission requirements in the garrison.

Phase II will bring 69 more stairwells on board with the program.

One area that has been a problem for everyone has been the use of the compost bins. As a result, in March the city will replace all the 250-liter compost containers with 120-liter containers for an additional annual savings of Ac'A!24,489 per year.

The 15-week program is designed to teach residents the proper way to recycle and provide feedback on how they are doing.

Each stairwell participating in Rumbling Rubbish has a score card on their recycling island with spaces for green, yellow or red dots.

The motto, "Keep it Green" implies that residents only want to see a green dot, but also hints at how the Army (green uniforms) saves money (greenback) for a greener earth.

Each week before the city picks up the refuse, two inspectors, Hanson and Ecker, go through the housing areas.

"We note what's going on at the island and determine whether they are getting a green or yellow dot," Hanson said.

Those stairwells which have incorrectly recycled refuse receive a yellow dot, and each building and stairwell coordinator receives a letter detailing what was not right, along with photos to document the failure.

If after three consecutive yellow dots the situation has not improved, the stairwell receives a red dot and a letter is sent to Lt. Col. Robert White, USAG Heidelberg commander, who takes further action.

Phase II, which includes stairwells in both MTV and PHV, was set to begin Match 4.

"We're trying to change their habits of how they think of waste," Vowinkel said. "Here in Germany we say it's reusable and can go back into industry and is recycled, and if we can do that it saves us a lot of money."

(Editor's Note: Jason Austin writes for the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg newspaper, the Herald Post.)

Page last updated Wed March 4th, 2009 at 07:37