Recycle, save the landfills

9 Apr 2010 | Lance Cpl. Damany S. Coleman

They aren’t tourist attractions. In fact, they are a bit of an eyesore but without them, the Earth would not be able to function. Today’s landfills protect the environment from contaminants and separate reusable resources that would otherwise be needlessly thrown out.

Environmental personnel and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s focus is diversion: to simply separate wastes from materials that can be reused and to not use the convenience of ‘burying trash’ as an alternative to recycling.

“Recycling is very (ideal) for the simple fact of the expense of constructing a landfill,” said David Balog, the recycling coordinator with the Base Landfill and Recycling Office. “It’s very expensive. One, recycling saves space in a landfill, and two, you’re conserving a valuable natural resource.”

Essentially, service members, their families and other Department of Defense personnel are encouraged to separate recyclable items such as cans and glass from trash that cannot be reused like diapers and food.

Recyclable materials include:

-Paper (White, colored, computer, newsprint, magazines)
-Glass (all colors, no ceramics)
-Plastics (all types except #6 Styrofoam)
-Cardboard (Old corrugated cardboard, paperboard)
-Batteries (lead acid, metal hybrid)
-Scrap metal (steel, copper, aluminum, brass and others)

These can all be processed and reused in many different forms. This would ultimately save the Earth from wasting precious natural resources and cut down on the expenses used to obtain them.

“Basically, every cubic yard of waste we recycle and don’t throw in the landfill saves $60,” said Powers.  “We also work day in and day out with Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service, otherwise known as DRMO, to make sure heavy metals, brass and tires are also processed.”

Aboard Camp Lejeune, about 80 percent of all the construction and demolition debris can be recycled as well for a variety of projects.

All other items have no intrinsic value and cannot be recycled said Balog. It’s called municipal-solid waste, and is typically what is sent up to be buried in the landfill.

The base landfill has 14 garbage trucks that rotate on a daily basis conducting approximately 3,700 drop-offs a week. This means about 2,211 tons of trash make it to the landfill per day. That does not include the vehicles from units or construction sites that deliver materials to the landfill.

“If separating the waste from recyclables is not easy, people aren’t always going to do it,” said Balog. “That has been one of our uphill battles: trying to educate the base and make it easy on them.”

This process is important because the base does not have a desegregated material recovery facility, or a “Dirty MRF.” There, workers filter through and separate different materials by hand from a conveyor belt. Not all landfills can afford this luxury, however.

Camp Lejeune requires materials to be separated at the “generator level,” or where the trash is produced. Sometimes though, the materials are not separated properly.

Only one percent of dump trucks are screened at the landfill and this means base personnel have to commit to doing their part and separate recyclables and trash at their respective sites in the area:

-The waste treatment facility
-Courthouse Bay off of Horn Street
-Rifle Range 13 at Stone Bay
-Paradise Point Bachelors Officer Quarters

-The Bachelor Officer Quarters
-The bowling alley

When units or contractors bring materials in to the landfill, however, they are screened thoroughly at the scale house, in which landfill workers look down in the beds of trucks to see what they’re carrying.

If they contain a wide range of different materials, they are turned away, but not without the proper guidance on what they need to do to have it accepted into the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office at the landfill, said Balog.

With the material recovery facility and load screening results, the landfill recycles 50 percent of all waste, said Kenneth Cobb, the pollution prevention manager for Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

Still, landfill personnel believe that saving these resources is critically important to saving the environment, but encourages service members to do their part.

“We are protecting these things as resources,” said Balog. “We are doing what we can to divert as many recyclable materials as we possibly can. The (base) needs to know that you can’t just haul things up to the landfill and throw it in a hole and forget about it. When I come across something that may be serviceable, I’m pulling it aside. I’m keeping it from going into that landfill.”