Northwest Navigator: News and Information from Navy Region Northwest in Washington State's Puget Sound, including Bremerton, Kitsap County, Oak Harbor, and Everett

DoD NW recycle team visits NAS Whidbey

Dennis Connolly
The Department of Defense Northwest recycle team visited NAS Whidbey Recycle Oct. 20 to discuss ways to improve military recycling efforts and learn techniques and programming processes from one another. Seen here from left are Paul Brewer, solid waste program manager, NAS Whidbey Island; Kassie Gale, recycle operations assistant, NAS Whidbey Island; Greg Levcun, representing Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest Environmental Division; Ron Norton, solid waste program manager, Joint Base Lewis McChord; Bobbie Battaglia, solid waste program manager, U.S. Coast Guard Station Seattle; Richard Gillespie, representing Joint Base Lewis McChord; Denise Lesniak, solid waste program manager, Naval Station Everett; and Aubrey Reed, recycle operations assistant, Naval Base Kitsap.

The Department of Defense Northwest Recycling Team, a group of program managers from bases all over Washington State got together at the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island to tour Navy Whidbey Recycle and learn from each other. They do this about once a quarter and rotate visits from one base to another.

Solid waste program managers from Coast Guard Base Seattle, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Naval Base Kitsap, Naval Station Everett and senior program managers and staff from Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest are all very interested in what we do with our trash.

Paul Brewer, manager of the Integrated Solid Waste Program at Navy Whidbey Recycle, who has been leading the recycling program since 1990, began the tour at the Navy Recycling Center warehouse. Eighteen years ago, Brewer worked in a small building described as a dust bowl in the summer and a mud bowl in the winter. At that time, the Navy was not focused on recycling with only about 4 percent of materials being recycled.

“Today, it’s about 79.5 percent,” Brewer said.

Two things were obvious early in the tour: the recycling center is very clean and very clean smelling.

Aubrey Reed, operations assistant of Naval Base Kitsap’s recycling program saw a couple things worth noting.

“NAS Whidbey offers a wonderful drop-off area. There are plenty of visual aids that help clarify where items belong,” Reed said. “The drop area is kept very clean and the material stacking bins are efficient for the crew. It’s impressive.”

Brewer showed the group the heavy duty paper cutter used to cut glued bindings off books used for compost and discussed separation of paper materials, pointing out the convenience of the stacking metal recycle bins.

When bins are full, they are made into bales. Forklifts have forks that turn 360 degrees. This enables the bins to be easily lifted, allowing paper to be tipped out onto the bailer. The new bailer for plastics uses the same tipping routine, dropping material directly onto the conveyor belt instead of shoveling it from the warehouse floor by hand. This reduces labor and improves safety.

Navy Whidbey Recycle processed 480 tons of cardboard just last year. The recycle center sells reusable cardboard boxes back to Sailors at a substantial savings.

“Active duty personnel on bases are always on the move and cardboard is our largest, single recycled product,” Brewer said. Sailors can pick up boxes from the recycling center for DITY (do it yourself) moves for about $50 instead of buying new boxes for $500-$700 dollars.

Denise Lesniak, Naval Station Everett’s Integrated Solid Waste Manager commented that the hardest part of getting people to recycle is education.

“People just don’t realize how much can be recycled or the type of things that can be pier-side recycled,” said Lesniak, adding that she wants to focus on education.

“Education and participation are major keys to the success of a recycle program,” Reed added and Brewer agreed.

“Education is the key and it’s a constant battle,” he said, sharing his thoughts on the foundations for a good solid waste management program. “We have to make recycling easy, we have to keep putting out information about recycling and we have to show people the benefits of recycling. Bottom line, we need to push the ‘What’s in it for them’ factor.”

“I think there are some great opportunities for us to learn more and possibly combine our efforts as the “DoD NW Recycling Team,” said Ron Norton, Solid Waste Program Manager at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Brewer also took the group to the compost facility, just off Ault Field Rd., where yard waste and compostable items like paper products, wood, food waste and grass convert into viable compost for use around the base. There is also a 10,000-gallon tank that captures rain and recycled water for use in the composting process, saving the government thousands of dollars every year by eliminating the need for using potable water.

“Composting has been key to our routinely high recycling rate,” said Brewer.

NAS Whidbey Island is a leader when it comes to recycling but there’s always another good idea just around the corner.

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