AEDC recycling saves millions, benefits environment

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- Arnold workers celebrated Earth Day this year by highlighting how 365 days of recycling pays off in big ways environmentally and financially.

The Arnold recycling program recorded a total cost avoidance of $940,000 in fiscal year 2006; and for fiscal year 2007, the figure is already at $1.3 million, said AEDC's program manager for environmental quality.

"AEDC continues to lead the way with an outstanding program to recycle, recover and reuse valuable resources," said Frank Duncan. "While there is always room for improvement, we are definitely on the right track."

The highest financial return of all recycled materials in fiscal year 2006 came from scrap metal, netting more than $702,000. More than 1,960 tons of steel, iron, copper and other metals were salvaged from construction and renovation projects on base. 

Computers, monitors and other electronic equipment were and continue to be recycled, going to state agencies, schools and to National Guard units in Iraq and elsewhere overseas.

The base also recycled 63 tons of paper collected by an outside company that handles document management and destruction, Duncan said. AEDC's Services squadron collected another 52 tons of paper and 162 tons of cardboard.

This had a significant positive environmental impact, Duncan said.

"These efforts alone saved more than 3,700 trees; saved 700 cubic yards of landfill space; reduced water usage by 79,000 gallons at a paper mill; saved 22,000 gallons of gasoline, reduced air pollutants that would have been produced by the paper mill by 13,000 pounds and saved 2.3 Megawatts of electricity," he said, citing EPA estimates for the amount of paper and cardboard AEDC recycled.

There was also a $12,500 savings over the cost of disposing this paper and cardboard in a regular dumpster, he said.

The base even recycles oil.

AEDC has what amounts to a network of oil reclamation and cleaning facilities, saving considerable sums of money and reducing the impact on the environment.

Used oil is screened for contaminants, including water, solids and chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls, better known as PCBs. The used oil is too degraded for use in test or support facilities, but much of it is viable as fuel for heating purposes, said John Bowles, the Aerospace Testing Alliance lead at the oil recovery facility for environmental quality.

"I collect and take oil samples from facilities around the base to our chemistry lab for analysis," Bowles said. "It's a stringent process. The most contaminated oil is separated from the rest and properly disposed of according to the government's strict environmental guidelines. My team is able to salvage around 10,000 gallons a year for use as heating oil for other organizations or agencies off base."