Rumbling Rubbish rolls on
March 28, 2012
HEIDELBERG, Germany - Marty Hanson is a man who enjoys saving money and for him and his team, the recycling islands scattered across the housing areas of Patrick Henry and Mark Twain Villages in Heidelberg are nothing short of a gold mine.
Each island houses four color coded waste containers used by Army family housing residents (about six families per island) to recycle glass, paper, food scraps and rubbish (items that cannot be recycled).
Since February, Hanson, an environmental specialist for U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Württemberg's Directorate of Public Works Operation and Maintenance Division, has made weekly rounds inspecting some 300 islands on PHV and MTV as part of the Rumbling Rubbish program.
He's been with the program since its creation in 2008, and he played a part in naming it.
"We kind of just put our heads together and decided to go with something that sounded like a military operation since this was a military community, and Rumbling Rubbish fit the bill," Hanson recalled.
The Chicago native expertly eyeballed piles of potato chip bags, orange peels and even dirty diapers.
His job is to ensure the containers are properly sorted with the right type of waste.
When they're not, residents may receive a yellow sticker posted outside their island and a visit from Hanson, who will try to work with families and stairwell coordinators to fix the problem.
A red sticker warrants a meeting with the garrison commander and each violation is documented in writing and with photos.
The overall goal of these inspections is to eventually reduce the size of the current 660-liter rubbish container to two 240-liter containers.
Hanson said the change on PHV alone could save the garrison $120,000.
Smaller containers have already been placed on Mark Twain Village due to the declining population, adding another $80,000 in savings annually.
The biggest challenge the program faces is when residents use the wrong container to dump their waste, which contaminates the whole container.
The garrison must then spend extra money to dispose of the contaminated waste.
"We're working on disseminating more information so that everyone knows what we're trying to do. I think everybody has the right attitude and they want to do the right thing. It's just a matter of informing them of what the right thing is," Hanson said.
Hanson recommends that residents use different containers to help pre-sort their waste before they take a trip to their recycling island.
"The key to it all is that you have to be set up in your quarters to separate your waste. If you have a trash can in your kitchen and everything's going in there, we're never going to make it," Hanson said. "It doesn't cost a lot of money to set up. You can get cardboard boxes from the commissary and line them with a plastic bag."
He also urged residents to ensure they properly dispose of their bulk items by placing them outside their residence on the appropriate pickup day and not inside the recycle islands.
Hanson has been with the garrison since 1993 and now splits his time working between Heidelberg and Wiesbaden. He said despite transformation, the Rumbling Rubbish program will continue to roll on.
"We're in discussion with Wiesbaden now and we're working with them to build islands. Wiesbaden has the intention of continuing this program because they have seen the success of what we're doing here," Hanson said.
"The people who will leave here and go to Wiesbaden and think they're going to get away from this are sadly mistaken," he laughed.
"This program will continue until the day Heidelberg closes and it will continue saving taxpayers' money until the end," Hanson added.
Rumbling Rubbish began as a Lean Six Sigma project that was later designated a Best Management Practice by Installation Management Command-Europe.