CAMP SHELBY, Miss. -- Earlier this year, Spc. Heather L. Baxter sat with her two boys, Grant and D.J., discussing their school work when Grant posed a tough question. What, he wondered, was the Army doing to make sure there was enough water and trees for them?

Baxter, a human resources specialist at the 177th Armored Brigade, had plenty to think about after talking with her son. After a little research, she learned that her brigade did not have a recycling program, but Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center did support a recycling center on post.

With that in mind, she created a recycling program at her office and designated different containers for plastic bottles, cardboard and paper. Once the containers are full, she transports them to the newly expanded base recycling center.

The new facility officially opened in August 2009 and has become the central facility for the entire state of Mississippi. It is capable of recycling everything from paper products to plastic bottles and from old military vehicles to expended brass. With more than 100 new recycling containers around Camp Shelby, workers at the recycling center have made it easy to recycle.

The center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to the public, as well as to the Soldiers who work and train here. After normal business hours those who wish to drop off items can place them in bins outside the facility that separate recyclable items into their proper categories. Those are paper, plastic, cardboard and toner or ink cartridges.

Master Sgt. Paul Collier is the operations sergeant for solid waste at the center, and he has seen the program develop since he took it over in April 2004.

"When they brought me on board, the program made around $20 to $30 thousand a year," said Collier. "Now we are looking at about $1.8 million a year."

With those funds, the recycling center covers the expenses for the entire program to include salaries, equipment and utilities. The remainder of the proceeds are donated to the Moral, Welfare and Recreation Program on Camp Shelby for everyone to enjoy.

The recycling center shreds all the paper collected and bails it for resale. Cardboard is bailed into huge blocks and sold for about $120 a ton. With one bail of cardboard weighing about 800 pounds, it doesn't take long for the money to add up. In addition, that waste is not being transported to local landfills.

Recycling metal takes on a different process. When enough scrap iron, aluminum or other recyclable metal is collected, buyers bid on the material. Collier said he must keep an eye on the market and ensure he is selling at the best possible time to the highest bidder.

"It is a lot to keep up with," said Collier. "I just want to make sure that I am getting the best price."

Collier explained that this is one military program that is able to give back to the Soldiers and civilians who make it run.

The recycling center has also formed a partnership with local schools, such as the Forrest County Agricultural High School in Brooklyn, Miss., by assisting the school in setting up its own recycling program. The center also works with the U.S. Forest Service to help preserve the natural resources in the DeSoto National Forest, which borders Camp Shelby.

With the recycling center making it easy to take part, other members of the 177th Armored Brigade have also taken office recycling seriously.

"In our office we consume a large amount of bottled water so I thought it was a good idea to start recycling the bottles," said Staff Sgt. Jason Foster, Brigade S-1 human resource sergeant. "The office responded greatly to the initiative and we all feel that this small step will do large measures in preserving our environment."

The First Army Training Academy also does its part to recycle on Camp Shelby.

Spc. Chad Mann, a human resource specialist at the academy, takes the office waste paper to the recycling center once a week.

"I don't mind taking paper to be recycled to the center," said Mann. "I feel like I am helping do our part to protect the planet. It makes me feel good."

The next time Grant asks his mom what the Army does to protect the natural resources for him and his friends, Baxter will be able to proudly say, "We recycle."

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Page last updated Wed October 12th, 2011 at 00:00