By G. Anthonie RiisJune 14, 2018
For members of the Fort Knox Qualified Recycle Program, "waste not want not" plays out practically every day with innovative ideas and creations that make sense.
According to Daniel Sundeen, the program's manager, recycling benefits Fort Knox in a myriad of ways.
The program earns money through the sorting, processing and selling of recyclable objects. Eventually, these unwanted scraps become useful to the consumer again.
In this way, existing items are used again so that resources aren't expended to make a product from scratch; instead, an existing product can be broken down to theoretically reproduce a product multiple times.
Thus, recycling both protects precious untapped resources and keeps unwanted items from going to landfills where they might will take a long time to decompose, says Sundeen.
"After covering operation costs, a QRP is authorized by regulation to transfer extra earnings over the cost of recycling into other Army installation projects and services that it provides," said Sundeen.
The recycling program is considered the biggest contributor to Fort Knox undertakings and funds many projects on the installation.
"We've transferred extra earnings over the cost of recycling into pollution abatement, energy conservation, occupational safety and health activities and MWR projects," Sundeen said. "We've helped the Fort Knox [Child Development Cen-ter] build a playground, pay for a sidewalk and guardrails, which provide a safer route for children walking to and from school."
Recently, one of Fort Knox's biggest recycle projects was jeopardized when recycle center officials learned they would no longer be reimbursed for expended small arms cartridge cases they collected and turned over to Defense Logistics Agency for demilitarization.
"An average load of spent brass cartridge casings will sell for $95,000, and we depend on that revenue as our lifeline," Sundeen explained. "It keeps our program going."
Sundeen said they had to work through many issues to bring revenue back into the equation.
"We would have to find a way to do it ourselves. It was no small endeavor to make the change. The brass had to first be deformed so that it couldn't be reused as a bullet casing," said Sundeen. "The problem was that the brass deformer machine is so loud that it could only be safely run for 15 minutes a day before it damaged the operator's hearing. And emissions created by the demilitarization process could contain lead, which had to be confined to a small area for easy and safe cleanup."
Sundeen's team worked together and thought outside of the box.
"Reutilization is a part of recycling, and we had a Conex with forklift holes in the side that had been cleared for recycle," Sundeen said. "All it took was an idea and our maintenance department wouldn't take no for an answer. We added sound proofing foam that both absorbs and deflects the sound, and we were able to contain enough noise to run the machine for eight hours a day.
"With the help of the Environmental Manage-ment Division, we hooked up an exhaust system that makes the process safe enough to perform on military installations," he concluded.
Recycling is being a good steward of the Earth, according to Sundeen, who said his team has taken the philosophy the extra mile.
"We borrowed from the concept of the 'Honey Wagon' that siphons sewer from the portable toilets, and we developed our own setup for oil or contaminant spills," he said. "We have already had three incidents that we responded to. The last one; a windstorm dropped a tree on a fuel pod and it was leaking -- we were there in 17 minutes and pumped the fuel from the pod, keeping a lot of that waste out of the ground."
Sundeen and his recycling crew said they are happy to be providing assistance for the Army post, but they also hope to protect the physical environment by diverting items that would fill the landfill on Fort Knox.
"While our biggest money maker is the demilitarized brass, our money saver is keeping countless wooden pallets and nearly 20 tons of pulverized glass out of the landfill," he said. "We sell or give to our Pintrest Project the pallets for people to show pictures of their creations, and the glass is used as aggregate for roads and foundations for buildings."
What drives his passion?
"The environment. I love being outdoors hunting, fishing or camping, and I look to the future of my kids and grandkids," Sundeen reflected. "It's contaminated now, but it was more so before we began to recycle." *