TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. -When we were young, the 3Rs defined the most important subjects in school: reading, writing and arithmetic. Today, a new trio of Rs defines the waste management strategy: reduce, reuse and recycle.

The 3Rs routine follows a "waste hierarchy,' meaning that you shouldn't have excess, but if you do you should try to reuse it. Then you recycle, explains Lauren Pond, environmental specialist and recycling program manager in the EMD. "We're required to recycle, but it's the last option," she says, noting that excess depot materials are often reused by other installations.

Last fiscal year the government's recycling requirement aided depot employees in generating enough recyclable materials to equal a gross total of over $1 million. Pond notes this amount is calculated before expenses were considered. Those expenses include, but are not limited to, recycling program costs, and energy efficiency and Morale Welfare and Recreation projects.

When all was said and done, a net gain of about $500,000 was realized after all projects, disbursements and sales were considered.

The depot's recycling program began in 1990. Today, each mission and administrative area sports a bin for white paper, magazines and newspapers, and glass, plastic and aluminum cans.

Fiscal year 2008 was a successful year for the recycling program, due to program improvements and new implementations, Pond says. "For example, we used to recycle waste oil for a cost but last year we started receiving money for recycling it."

"We've also expanded from recycling just aluminum to all metal shavings, and we don't recycle just wood pallets anymore; we accept clean wood as well." Clean wood is considered as not painted, treated or rotted.

Last year, the depot began collecting and recycling what Pond refers to as "small generators" of recyclable material. She researched and found a company that recycles the pink and yellow connector (pin protector) caps from cable assemblies. Since Monroe County only recycles number one and two plastics, the caps don't qualify, she explains. The caps are now collected and recycled into plastic split rail fencing.

Included in the small generator category are the tin foil packages that house cables before use. "The foil packaging is only used to protect the cable. Once it's removed, technicians don't have a use for it so they were throwing it away," Pond says, explaining that the depot now recycles the wrappers as "clean aluminum." "Clean" means that the metal is just aluminum and never been used.

Pond says since she took over the program in 2007, one of the past challenges was encouraging more people to recycle.

"I used to see more people throwing recyclable material away, but that's changed," she says, adding that the work force understands the benefits of recycling and segregating the materials into the appropriate recycling containers.

Randy Didier, chief of EMD, notes that personnel notice environmental benefits as well as personal benefits such as support for employee appreciation day, and "this leads to more recycling." He adds that the 2008 fiscal year recycling cost avoidance from not disposing of recyclable materials in landfills was over $450,000.

EMD personnel enforce sustainment of good recycling practices by monitoring and inspecting divisions monthly, and auditing solid waste dumpsters for recyclable materials. EMD personnel perform monthly inspections on second and third shifts, scanning for not only recycling, but hazardous material, air, solid waste, water and energy efficiency compliances.

"Practicing environmental management makes us a good steward in the community and also benefits the depot in saving money," says Rick Shuleski, chief of the Resource Management Directorate. "Recycling funds can be channeled back into the depot for projects that improve the environmental program, as well as projects that improve employee morale." He notes that personnel in EMD do a good job when providing information related to the depot's environmental management program and, from a resource management perspective, the program is good for the depot's business.

Pond recently focused on standardizing the look of the plastics, glass and aluminum can containers. "The newer containers simplify recycling by creating a uniform look; plastics are always designated for the round, glass for the diamond and cans for the square openings," she explains, adding that over 100 bins are already implemented in mission and cafeteria areas.

About 400 white paper, newspaper and magazine bins and crates are allocated throughout the installation. EMD personnel are planning on implementing standardized containers for those paper products.

She says future plans include recycling shrink wrap, and reminds employees that EMD personnel are always looking for new depot-generated waste/materials that can be recycled.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is the largest full-service Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) maintenance and logistics support facility in the Department of Defense. Employees repair, overhaul and fabricate electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network.

Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces. The depot is the Army Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence (CITE) for Communications-Electronics, Avionics, and Missile Guidance and Control Systems and the Air Force Technology Repair Center (TRC) for ground communications and electronics.

About 5,700 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control, computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.

Page last updated Mon April 20th, 2009 at 10:52