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Selfridge works to meet Air Force environmental goals through active recycling program

Mark Paasche, a 127th Wing civil engineer, explains how old computer equipment can be recycled at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Sept. 28, 2011. Paasche oversees the recycling program at Selfridge, which includes collecting post-consumer materials including plastics, cardboard, paper, batteries, light bulbs, computer equipment and more. (USAF photo by SSgt. Anna-Marie Wyant)

Mark Paasche, a 127th Wing civil engineer, explains how old computer equipment can be recycled at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Sept. 28, 2011. Paasche oversees the recycling program at Selfridge, which includes collecting post-consumer materials including plastics, cardboard, paper, batteries, light bulbs, computer equipment and more. (USAF photo by SSgt. Anna-Marie Wyant)

Mark Paasche, a 127th Wing civil engineer, enters the recycling center at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Sept. 28, 2011. Paasche oversees the recycling program at Selfridge, which includes collecting post-consumer materials including plastics, cardboard, paper, batteries, light bulbs, computer equipment and more. (USAF photo by SSgt. Anna-Marie Wyant)

Mark Paasche, a 127th Wing civil engineer, enters the recycling center at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Sept. 28, 2011. Paasche oversees the recycling program at Selfridge, which includes collecting post-consumer materials including plastics, cardboard, paper, batteries, light bulbs, computer equipment and more. (USAF photo by SSgt. Anna-Marie Wyant)

Plastic bottles and containers, cardboard, paper and other post-consumer recyclables are stored in separate bins at the recycling center at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich. Anyone can drop off recyclables including batteries, light bulbs, personal computer equipment and more at the center, located at Bldg. 180, weekdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (USAF photo by SSgt. Anna-Marie Wyant)

Plastic bottles and containers, cardboard, paper and other post-consumer recyclables are stored in separate bins at the recycling center at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich. Anyone can drop off recyclables including batteries, light bulbs, personal computer equipment and more at the center, located at Bldg. 180, weekdays and drill weekends from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (USAF photo by SSgt. Anna-Marie Wyant)

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- Don't throw that plastic bottle away! Don't just toss those newspapers into the trash! Do you know about the 127th Wing's recycling program?

"Every once in a while I run into someone who says, 'You have recycling on this base?'" said Mark Paasche, a 127th Wing environmental engineer who oversees the recycling program here. "We've been doing it for almost ten years now."

Paasche said base personnel can recycle items such as paper, cardboard, toner cartridges, batteries, plastics, CDs, and light bulbs at the base recycling center, Bldg. 180 (behind the civil engineering building). He said the goal is to increase the diversion rate--the ratio of disposed materials that are recycled to the overall waste; the Air Force-wide goal is to consistently have a diversion rate of 50 percent or higher base wide, meaning at least half of the waste from the base will get recycled.

Paasche said the wing runs an annual computer drive in conjunction with the Army Garrison at the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Command in Warren, Mich. Only home computers can be brought for recycling--government computers must go through the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office. For the computer drive, people can drop off their old computers and computer-related equipment such as monitors, printers, et cetera, to the recycling center through Sept. 30.

"We do this drive because a lot of people just let (old computer equipment) sit in their basement for years and years, and they don't know what to do with it," he said. "It's not good to throw them out because they contain lead, mercury, and other stuff we don't want to end up in a landfill."

Paasche said the computer equipment gets broken down into various components. Some parts can be reused or refurbished, while others can be recycled, like the metals, plastics, and even hazardous materials. 

Recycling on base is not just good practice; it is also mandated by the Department of Defense, Air Force, and National Guard Bureau.

As Paasche said, although the program has existed for nearly a decade, some people still are unaware of the opportunities to recycle at Selfridge. He said he is working on ways to increase awareness about the program and make it easier for people to get involved.

"We have what's called an environmental cross-functional team. We meet quarterly, and we have representation from base tenants and various units within the wing," he said. "We communicate, and we try to get the word out."

While overseeing recycling is part of his job, Paasche said pretty much everyone else involved does it voluntarily.

"We don't have paid recyclers; we try to run it so it doesn't cost the wing any money," he said. "The people who participate are all volunteers, and a lot of them use their own vehicles to collect items and take them to the recycling center."

Overall he said base participation has been good.

"It's gotten a lot better over the last seven to eight years," he said. "As new people transfer here, they ask about the recycling program. Some people ask for recycling bins. I love that."

In the future, Paasche said he hopes to be able to recycle a greater variety of materials, such as Styrofoam and different types of plastics. He also hopes to make recycling more convenient for base personnel and would like to eventually have a base recycling contract and recycling bins in every building; making it easier for people to recycle will likely increase participation. Tech. Sgt. Hart Haire III of the 127th Logistics Readiness Squadron said the convenience of recycling in his offices is the main reason he and his co-workers are not only aware of the program, but also regularly participate in it.

"I have a box under my desk for pop cans and bottles, plus there's another one in the break room," Haire said. "Also, we have a recycling box for paper next to the copy machine. It's easy, so most people in my office do use those boxes to recycle. It's good because keeping the Air Force 'green' is becoming a big deal."

Increasing recycling can also reduce trash--and the money associated with it. Paasche said by reducing the amount of trash, the base could potentially reduce trash pickups. Additionally, some post-consumer materials, such as certain metals, can be sold. All things considered, recycling benefits the base, the environment and the taxpayers.

"Recycling saves money, plus we're supposed to be doing it," he said. "I believe recycling is prudent use of our resources."

For more information about recycling at Selfridge, contact Mark Paasche at (586) 239-6273.