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1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A recycling center employee loads cardboard into a machine that will compress the material and bale it for disposition through a vendor. (Photo Credit: Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Willard Childress, Directorate of Public Works environmental scientist, shows batteries collected for recycling at the center. (Photo Credit: Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL
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3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Electronics collected at the center for recycling. (Photo Credit: Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker generated 5,009 tons of non-construction solid waste last fiscal year, and the post recycling center managed to divert 2,874 tons of that waste away from area landfills.

That 57% diversion rate from landfills not only exceeds the Army’s 40% requirement, but it helps Fort Rucker live up to its goal of being a good environmental steward, according to Willard Childress, Directorate of Public Works environmental scientist.

“When you’re talking about the over 2,800 tons that we’ve recycled, all of that would have had to be taken to a landfill,” he said. “There’s only so much room for landfills and only so much you can put into them. Plus, we’re recycling metals, electronics, batteries and ink and toner cartridges. Landfills have come a long way since their inception, but we’re still talking about chemicals possibly going into the environment.

“To me, recycling is a no-brainer – it makes more sense to recycle and reuse rather than just throw all of those materials into the trash,” he said, adding that it also cuts down on the post’s bill for taking refuse to area landfills. “We all like clean water, we all like clean land and we all like clean air. All of those materials in landfills are there because of people – let’s do what we can to limit it.”

The recycling center works with area vendors who accept the materials, but this area doesn’t offer an opportunity to recycle plastic and glass without an exorbitant cost, Childress added.

The recycling center accepts ferrous and non-ferrous metals, from aluminum cans to steel cans to things like lawnmower blades; cardboard, but not types used for food such as pizza boxes; paper of any kind; electronics; batteries; and ink and toner cartridges, he said.

Childress added that while the center is designed to be used primarily by Fort Rucker units, organizations and agencies, along with Soldiers and families who live on post, people who utilize the post but who don’t live on post can also drop off their recyclables at the facility.

Dropping those items off at the center is a simple, quick process, the environmental scientist added.

“We have a drive-through setup to make it easy -- just come through the entry door, pull in, and if you need assistance, roll down your window and one of our people will come out,” he said. “You just throw your items into the appropriate bins and then roll on out.”

Childress oversees the contract staff of three that handles the recycling mission on post, and while the mission of supporting an organization as big as Fort Rucker is a challenge, it’s one the crew is more than up for, he said.

Above and beyond the center itself, the recycling effort also includes collecting from the more than 300 green paper recycling bins located around offices on post, and more than 100 of the large black bins for cardboard, Childress said.

“It’s a military installation, but it’s basically like an industrial commercial district that’s always generating materials it needs to dispose of – organizations and units are constantly getting stuff in crates and cardboard, besides what folks are producing at home,” he said. “It’s a large mission and they do an excellent job.”

The recycling center also offers an incentive program for units with a military commander, down to the company level, Childress added. The center tracks participating units’ quarterly totals in each material it accepts, and then awards them funds to be used at Directorate of Family, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities for events such as organizational days.

“It directly contributes back to servicemembers and units,” he said, adding that the program gives back about $20,000 a year. “It’s for the servicemembers, to tell them, ‘Thank you!’ That’s who we’re here for.”

To find out more about or sign a unit up for the incentive program, or for questions on recycling at Fort Rucker, call 255-0468.