By Lindsay Dunahee, ANAD DRKJune 24, 2019
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- For many Americans, recycling is practically second nature. Even where not required by law, recycling is generally considered to be good sense.
Products containing recycled content are everywhere, as are collection bins.
On the federal level, organizations are held to specific goals on what percentage of a given waste stream must be diverted away from landfills and into an appropriate reuse/recycling stream.
We, as individuals and as federal employees, have a duty to manage our waste production responsibly.
Recycling is a big part of this duty.
So, why is Anniston Army Depot suddenly scaling back?
The answer is rooted in a growing concern over the fate of recycling worldwide.
When China began to close its doors to recyclable materials in 2017, ANAD's Qualified Recycling Program and the Directorate of Risk Management teamed up to find creative avenues for depot waste.
Despite the commendable efforts and sacrifices made by QRP, the recyclable commodities market has collapsed beyond our ability to compensate.
Regrettably, ANAD must take a strategic pause on many QRP functions until a more favorable market allows the program to be self-sustaining.
The DRK and QRP staffs will continue to work toward developing an innovative waste management strategy focused on whole-system concepts and local economies.
Recycling is not just a feel-good habit; it's a $200 billion international industry.
Most recyclable materials are not recycled in the United States. Typically, recyclables are collected in large distribution centers to be shipped to China and other countries for processing. The materials return to us in the form of fresh products.
So what went wrong?
While the system appears to be a win-win on the surface, significant flaws have forced major players in the global recycling industry to take a step back:
1. Environmental Justice - Processing centers must manage contamination, such as food waste, lead, mercury and other hazardous substances.
To compound the issue, unscrupulous operators set up shop in under-regulated countries, operating cheaply, with no regard for the environment or local residents.
In an effort to curb a growing recycling-based pollution problem, China and other countries have either tightened the rules or completely banned many materials.
2. Over Supply - We produce waste faster than we can recycle it. Many recyclable wastes are seen as more trouble than they're worth. This is especially true when contaminated and unsorted.
3. Money - Recycling is expensive and time consuming. It costs ANAD dramatically more to collect these materials than can be recovered in sales.
Several commodities, like plastic, wood dunnage and mixed paper, have no buyers at all.
WHAT CHANGES WILL WE SEE?
QRP will continue to collect industrial metals, hold Saturday sales and collect properly sorted office paper from certain facilities.
All cans, plastic, cardboard and wood crates/pallets will now be managed by the solid waste contractor, Advanced Disposal.
The most significant change will be a reduction in door-to-door services.
It will become the responsibility of each facility to break down and carry cardboard, etc., to designated roll-offs along a new pickup route.
Most facilities will share roll-offs staged throughout the depot for this purpose.
Larger-producing facilities will have dedicated roll-offs.
Shop supervisors will be briefed on roll-off locations and usage guidelines as needed.
The in-shop recycling containers for cans, bottles, and mixed paper will be removed.
QRP will only collect recyclable office paper and printer cartridges from certain designated facilities.
Office paper sorting guidelines will become more stringent.
Plastic, cans, and non-corrugated cardboard (such as frozen meal cartons) will go into the household/breakroom trash bins.
Pallet sales have been suspended until further notice. QRP staff will instead focus on an aggressive wood yard cleanout project. Our goal is to clear the wood yard by April 2020.
WHEN WILL THINGS CHANGE?
The changeover is scheduled to begin July 8, with completion by Aug. 31.
The changeover will be carried out section by section, beginning with the southeastern-most portion of the Nichols Industrial Complex.
Shop supervisors will be briefed on their place in the schedule.
A reminder will be posted in TRACKS prior to each changeover phase.
For questions, comments, and concerns, email email@example.com.
HOW CAN I HELP?
No one wants to see good materials wasted in a landfill. We also want to avoid wasted effort for shop staff.
A great way to avoid waste is by taking an active role in limiting the waste we produce. Here are some tips:
• Keep sorting. ANAD is working hard to find new homes for recyclables, so stay in the habit of sorting.
• Instead of sodas and single-use water bottles, switch to reusable water bottles.
• Pack food in reusable containers.
• Try to consolidate. Make sure all cardboard is as flat as possible when loading into the roll-offs. Stack pallets and boxes as neatly as possible to maximize roll-off space. When roll-offs are too light, it wastes both fuel and money to haul them.
• Mind the Signs! We will be putting considerable effort into making sure roll-offs are as convenient and as clearly marked as possible.
Please help us by minding the decals. Also, please do not move or otherwise tamper with roll-off decals.
The location and purpose of each roll-off will be on record. Facilities found to abuse or tamper with containers will be asked to take corrective action before the container can be emptied.
• Take care with reusable items such as pallets or other wood structures. The more use they get prior to disposal, the better. In the future, we may have a market for serviceable wood items, so getting in the habit of preservation now is everyone's best bet.
• Mind shop housekeeping! Wood and cardboard management will become less convenient. It will be important to have a housekeeping plan for how to manage wastes that are waiting to be taken to the correct disposal point.
• Recyclable paper will be limited to office paper only. No binders, boxes, file folders, magazines, newspapers, etc. will be accepted. White, printed and colored paper such as sticky notes are okay.