Recycling program at Guam base turns a mountain into a molehill
July 23, 2006
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — Thanks to recycling efforts at this U.S. base at the northern tip of Guam, the trash load is reduced by about half, according to the officer who runs the recycling program.
It’s a notable figure feat, especially because Andersen’s trash dump will fill within two years, Air Force said. When that happens, the Air Force may turn to local Guam officials — who are struggling to solve the problem of their own growing landfill-turned-Superfund-site — for help, according to island’s officials.
Nowhere else on Guam is there such an organized recycling effort, according to military and Guam officials. There are several recycling companies on the island, but that involves an individual choice to haul paper, glass, aluminum, plastic and other items to those companies, according to Guam Sen. Joanne Brown, R-Ordot/Chalan Pago, chairwoman of the legislature’s committee on natural resources and utilities.
“Andersen has taken the lead in recycling,” Brown said during a recent interview.
Guam’s own landfill in Ordot has grown into a mountain, and the island is under a court order to build a new collection site for trash, Brown and others said. As the Air Force and Navy landfills also fill up, and as 8,000 U.S. Marines move to Guam in the next few years, local officials are worried about preparing for more and more trash.
“Everything we have is brought in,” said Brown, who also once worked for the island’s Environmental Protection Agency office. “How do you dispose of that?”
In one year, Andersen’s living and working population of more than 5,500 people put 27,500 cubic yards of trash into the dump, according to Lt. Jeremy Bolin, the solid waste manager at Andersen.
The program diverts 45 percent to 52 percent of the base’s trash to the recycling center, which prepares the items for other uses or for sale off-island, Bolin said.
The center was built in 1997 for $1 million, and the recycling effort has grown since then, Bolin said. Last year, the center began accepting plastic bottles.
It’s not a money-making process: The current contract with Red River Services Corp. out of Austin, Texas, costs more than $300,000 annually, and the center brings in about $30,000 each year, according to the public affairs office at Andersen.
But the voluntary program does save 8,650 tons of trash from going into Andersen’s landfill, and prolonging the life of the that trash dump saves an estimated $1.7 million in costs each year, Bolin said.
“We try to educate our populace about how to do it, but ... it’s totally up to them if they want to recycle.”
The glass is ground into sand to fill sand bags and to be used as ground filler on construction sites, Bolin said. The other items are separated, stacked and crushed into giant bales that are sold off-island a few times a year. The Air Force works with a broker to sell its paper and other recyclables, but the income made from those sales is dependent on a volatile market, Bolin said.