By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterNovember 21, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 21, 2012) -- As electronic systems age and people upgrade, the importance of properly disposing of old electronics is stepping into the limelight of recycling, and Fort Rucker participated in a national campaign, America Recycles Day, Nov. 15 to reduce electronic waste.
E-waste refers to the variety of electronic products that have met the end of their useful life. If not recycled properly, this growing waste stream can leave toxic metals in landfills and poses threats to the environment and to people's health, according to Colleen Quinlan, Fort Rucker Environmental Office hazardous waste manager.
To combat the problem locally, the Directorate of Public Works hosted an E-cycling event Nov. 15 at the post exchange and the recycling center.
"We accepted everything from whole computers and their parts to all sizes and shapes of batteries. People brought a lot of televisions and old video equipment like videocassette recorders," she said.
More people participated this year, according to Quinlan, but she estimates that they collected about the same amount of waste as last year.
"Each year I think we will get bigger. This event is really important because we try to educate people on the precious and non-precious metals that are found in many electronics. If these metals get into the soil after they are deposited into landfills, it can lead to massive health problems for plants, animals and people," she said.
The event is held once a year and this is Fort Rucker's second year participating.
The facts that no paperwork is involved and civilians can participate are other reasons that make the recycling events special.
"It is super easy to drop things off. No hassle, no paperwork and no fees. These events are invaluable to the community. We couldn't make it any easier. You can live off post, you can bring your neighbors' stuff, you can work on post-- it doesn't matter. As long as people could get it to us, we took it without any questions being asked," she said.
A lot of the equipment that people brought in, according to Quinlan, can be refurbished.
"All of the cell phones donated go to the Cell Phones for Soldiers program and a lot of the other items can help people. It is a much better alternative to throwing it away," she said.
When the recycling center is not having special events, like the E-cycling drive, it collects what is considered typical, recyclable material year round.
"We take cardboard, aluminum, paper, plastic, old toner cartridges and even used oil. We also take metals like brass and we even accept compact discs now because we have the shredder," she said.
According to Quinlan, recycling is a mindset that is slowly spreading across the area.
"It's slow but it's coming. I have found that many people just don't realize the dangers that a lot of waste poses. They don't know it's hazardous and that is why many people don't recycle -- not because they don't care," she said.
The military community is no stranger to recycling, and the hazardous waste manager said that military Families can greatly benefit from recycling and the programs that many installations provide.
"Being in the military, people tend to collect things because they move so often. So recycling is a great way for people to get rid of old and basically useless belongings. There is nowhere for people to take old televisions or computers unless they sit them out by the road," she said, adding that recycling is a great alternative.
Many areas do not have recycling centers, so Quinlan said she appreciates the recycling opportunities Soldiers have on Fort Rucker.
"It's great that people have a place to take it to so we can recover some of those precious metals and don't have to keep generating new materials and items," she said.
Sabrina Vail, an Army spouse and enthusiastic recycler, agreed that the opportunity to recycle locally is priceless.
"I am from Washington state, so I am used to recycling everything. It was odd to come to a place where recycling is not a major concern. It was really nice to see [the post] participating in the event so I can safely get rid of products that I don't use anymore," she said.
For Quinlan, the biggest issue about recycling is the state that the planet will be left in for future generations.
"It's about the future. One day our children will have these overflowing landfills with no options. It's going to turn into a bigger and bigger problem every year as people update more and more electronics," she said.
For anyone wishing to recycle materials, the recycling center at Bldg. 9322 and hazardous waste center at Bldg. 1315 are open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.