Changes in markets and demands for recyclable items have brought about changes in operations at the Fort Knox Recycle Center.

One of the biggest changes involves the recycling of plastics. Center officials will only focus on keeping plastics #1 and #2 -- considered the most common types of containers -- rather than all seven. Another change is in how they will pick up plastics at office buildings.

Dan Sundeen, branch chief at the center, said while he is working to provide Fort Knox customers the very best services possible, reality necessitates the change.

"Part of our duty is to support the military. We have a duty to the post, a duty to the taxpayer," said Sundeen. "We're pushing the envelope as much as possible; the reason is to help the post."

The plastics categorized as #1 and #2 are typically water bottles and milk jugs respectively. Although some soft drink and water bottling companies are beginning to go with a new form of plastic considered to be more biodegradable, most still use #1 plastic.

Another area that has affected the Recycle Center's costs is manpower to stop by virtually every building for plastics and paper. Sundeen said they have received complaints about missed pickups from time to time.

"We can't do these pickups like we were doing in the past," said Sundeen. "It's eating up too much manpower, and it's outside what we're supposed to be doing. We're trying to get as much done as we can but not deplete the operation."

Instead, the Recycle Center will only be collecting office paper at a central location in each floor of each building they service.

Several services will remain in effect.

One of those is providing free unused ink cartridges to offices that have compatible printers and copiers. Sundeen estimated that this one service alone saves the post approximately $20,000 a year.

Another service involves the collection and sale of cardboard at competitive market prices. The center also collects non-magnetic metals for sale, to include copper, aluminum and brass. One of the biggest sellers for the center is brass ammunition casings collected by range control officials.

Aluminum cans are put through a hopper that crushes them into what Sundeen calls biscuits -- each biscuit containing approximately 830 cans. The brass casings are run through their own hopper that deforms them to ensure they cannot be wrongfully reused.

Paper is another big collectible item that will remain in place. Crews at the center collect "For Official Use Only" paper from organizations on post that is then carefully shredded into unrecognizable confetti. Wednesdays are a big pickup day for that, according to Sundeen, who said their biggest customer is U.S. Army Human Resources Command.

Sundeen said they continue to collect wooden pallets -- selling the best ones back to companies that brought them to Fort Knox in the first place. Pallets that are unable to be sold to companies are offered to members of the Fort Knox community to be used however they want. Sundeen encourages artistic types to invent creative works of art with the pallets.

Pallets that don't get picked up but are still reusable get ground up into mulch or taken to the installation's construction debris landfill.

Other items they collect include cooking and motor oils as well as antifreeze; furniture and appliances that are made of at least 50% metal; and glass for use under blacktops, culverts and as aggregate. Sundeen said a recent glass display made by an employee at the facility has sparked a new idea to provide the crushed and rounded glass to those in the community who would like to use it for artistic endeavors.

"We try to find a home for everything in this place," said Sundeen.

Despite the most recent changes, Sundeen said the center isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and the central focus for him and his employees remains the same.

"We do our best to stay as beneficial to post as possible," said Sundeen. "We have to remain self-sufficient, but all this effort also saves the life of area landfills."

(Editor's Note: For a full list of services and hours of operation or for more information, call (502) 624-5026.)