Photo Information

Bales of plastic bottles, containers and bags sit stacked at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune recycling area, awaiting to be sold to a broker where the materials will be further processed, recycled and reused, March 7. The Qualified Recycling Program currently gets two cents for every pound of the base’s plastics, which could greatly increase if patrons would only separate the plastic bags from the plastic bottles before they are put into recycling bins.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Damany S. Coleman

Camp Lejeune leads way in plastics recycling

7 Mar 2011 | Lance Cpl. Damany S. Coleman

Since the state of North Carolina passed regulation 1 Oct. 1, 2009 that made it illegal to throw away type one and two plastic bottles in with regular trash, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s Public Works and the Qualified Recycling Program teamed up to establish a plastic recycling program on base.

The base easily generates anywhere from 400,000 to 500,000 pounds of plastics every year. The QRP sells the plastics diverted from the landfill and uses proceeds to offset the costs of recycling collections.

However, when the materials are picked up, transported to the base recycling area and baled for export, there can sometimes be just more than narrow necked bottles in the bunch. The plastic brokers that are interested in buying the base’s plastic containers and bottles are concerned about the large amount of plastic trash bags that are used to hold the plastic containers.

“There are seven different types of plastics, and when we bale all of them together, we have a lot of plastic bags co-mingled with them,” said David Balog, the recycling coordinator for the base. “After the (buyers) cut all the banding wire off of the bale, it all breaks down into the different categories. They then have to sift through it all, which is very labor intensive and makes it harder for us to sell. It’s much less marketable.”

Now, the QRP sells the base’s plastics for two cents a pound, a price which could greatly increase if the bales were ‘cleaned up.’  Then the proceeds could then go to more interior office collection containers, a pickup and transportation program or better processing facilities.

“Cleaning up the bales is going to be a big deal for us,” said Balog. “We could be making a lot more but its difficult finding viable markets for it – it’s just low quality.”

The issue can be fixed simply be empting the plastic bottles into the recycling receptacles and removing the outer plastic trash bag. The plastic trash bags can be placed in the solid waste dumpster or even reused.

“Removing the outer plastic trash bag will greatly enhance our marketability of the plastics we generate,” said Balog.

A total of 11 percent of all landfills are comprised of plastics that are type one and two plastics: polyethylene terephtalate and high density polyethylene. They range from soda bottles, to milk jugs to detergent bottles.

Types three through seven are more difficult to recycle and include plastic food wraps, bread bags, squeezable bottles, grocery and trash bags and Styrofoam.

“Recycling plastics on base conserves natural resources, saves money and protects human health, our oceans and our wildlife,” said Balog. “The next time you buy a bottle of water or Gatorade, don’t just trash it - recycle it.  If we all start small with just one bottle, it can turn into a mountain. Just remember to remove plastic bags prior to disposal.”

For more information about the base’s recycling program, call the recycling Coordinator’s Office at 451-4214.