FORT STEWART, Ga. - Empty plastic bottles, paper, cardboard boxes and aluminum cans are recyclables that are placed in blue poly-carts and ready to go to Fort Stewart's Processing Station. But, what happens when these recyclables are exposed to cooking oil and other liquids? The answer is simple; the recyclables are contaminated and become unusable. As a result, the contaminated recyclables must be placed in Fort Stewart's sanitary landfill.

"We have a landfill for sanitary waste on the installation," said Ronald King, Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield Recycling Program Manager. "As long as we reduce the amount of waste that goes into the landfill, the longer it remains open. So, recycling plays a part in reducing the amount of waste that gets land-filled."

A landfill is an area where waste material is placed then buried with soil. With a 50 percent recycling goal at Stewart-Hunter, the landfill on the installation has a life expectancy of 27 years before it is closed.

"A landfill is a facility where waste is buried and isolated from the surrounding environment, e.g. air and groundwater," said Veronica Frazier, Fort Stewart Landfill Compliance Manager. "It is strictly regulated. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division ensures protection of human health and the environment."

Frazier said that if we continue to fill the landfill at the current rate and recycle at the current rate, it is estimated that we have until year 2038 before the landfill fills up.

To assist the Directorate of Public Works' Environmental Division with recycling efforts, blue poly-carts were made available in housing areas and blue recycling bins were placed in offices and motor pools across the Stewart-Hunter community.

When recycling your energy drink, juice or soda container, the remaining contents of your beverage should be disposed of before the container goes into the poly-carts or bins. Otherwise, the remaining contents can leak into the poly-cart and contaminate other recyclables.

"We ask that everyone separate their paper recyclables from the rest of their recyclables," said Frazier. "It would prevent paper recyclables from being contaminated. We also ask people to ensure that liquid containers are properly emptied before placing in the recycling containers."

Some tips on recycling:

• Use glass dishes rather than disposable dishes like paper plates and paper cups (reduces waste).

• If using disposable dishes, properly dispose of all remaining food prior to recycling (Food remains on disposable dishes can contaminate other recyclables).

• Separate recyclables like paper from plastic bottles and aluminum cans (reduces contamination).

• Go bagless or use clear bags instead of brown bags (or other colors). (Clear bags reveal contamination and avoid confusion as to what is trash and what are recyclables.)

King offers the "Three Rs" " reduce, reuse and recycle.

"Make educated purchasing decisions," he said. "Instead of buying six bottles of water, I can buy a gallon of water. By buying the gallon of water, I just reduced the potential amount of solid waste. To support "Reuse," you can reuse a plastic bottle by filling it back up to drink or use to water your flowers. Recycle, as a last resort, you can recycle the plastic bottle instead of disposing in a landfill."

The Three Rs is a tool the community can utilize to assist with Stewart's Recycling Program and campaign. The more the community recycles, the more the benefits of recycling can be seen on the installation. Money is saved and funds can be put toward recreational projects on the installation like a splash park.