MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Throwing an old milk carton or empty soda can into the recycling bin is second nature to the average American citizen, and most of us really don’t put much thought into where all of those used recyclables go once they reach our garbage bins.
But according to Charles Bradshaw, Camp Pendleton’s recycling programs manager, base residents should pay a little bit more attention to what they’re throwing away.
“Our recycling program [on base] is fantastic,” explained Bradshaw, “but most of our man-hours at our facility are spent sorting out the contaminated recyclables from the re-usable material. Contaminating the recyclables with trash hurts everyone.”
According to Bradshaw, the program is experiencing unprecedented success by producing one third of the entire Corps’ recycling profit and saving tens of thousands of landfill space annually. However, nearly $500,000 worth of man hours is spent sorting out the contaminated recyclables.
“Just by looking at the daily drop off at our facility, the trash visually exceeds the recyclables,” he said. “For every 50 pieces of usable material we get, it’s probably mixed in with about 300 pieces of trash.”
The Department of Defense's Qualified Recycling Program is allowed to generate revenue from the sale of recyclable materials. After paying the recycling center’s operating costs, generated profits fund projects encouraging pollution prevention, energy conservation, occupational safety and morale- and welfare-related projects to benefit Marines, sailors and the families that live on base.
However, separating trash from recyclables reduces revenue. Base loses countless dollars each day by removing dirty diapers, dog waste, car batteries, wasted food, toys, furniture, clothes, tires, and hazardous materials from recycling bins.
Last year Camp Pendleton generated approximately $3.4 million from recycled cardboard, plastic, aluminum cans, metal scraps and other recyclable materials.
So far for 2012 Camp Pendleton is on track to meet or exceed last year’s numbers, according to Bradshaw’s statistics. Bradshaw said he uses last year’s numbers as a benchmark to see where the base stands in comparison to previous years.
“It’s important for everyone on base to recycle for not only the Marine Corps as a whole, but to benefit the environment,” said Pfc. Travis Dodson, an aircraft mechanic with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and a volunteer at the base recycling center. “The less waste that goes into the landfills, the better. All you have to do is see a landfill once and you’ll want to recycle more.”
Recycling in the workplace is required throughout Camp Pendleton. Not only is trash being thrown into recycle bins and dumpsters, but too many recyclables are going into the base landfills.
"It’s great that we have such a vigorous recycling program, but it's important to recycle effectively," said Bradshaw. "Recycling not only saves natural resources, but it reduces our need to exhaust environmental assets."