MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Did you know that about three quarters of everything you throw in the trash is recyclable? Even items you might consider unusable — used soda cans, old newspapers, broken wooden pallets and brass shell casings from expended rifle rounds, for example — can be broken down into its original form and used again.
Recycling is collecting materials which would otherwise be considered waste, processing them into their basic materials, such as fibers or raw metal, and manufacturing them into new usable products.
One of the missions of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center’s Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Division is to reduce the percentage of solid waste through their own recycling program. That program accounts for everything from common household items to the brass shell casings and aluminum ordnance containers used when units train on the ranges. The section which handles those ordnance-related items is the Combat Center’s Range Residue Processing Station.
“This pad alone generated about $450,000 last year,” said Jim Sanderson, the Station’s senior unexploded ordnance technician. “That’s brass, steel, aluminum, plastic.”
Like household goods recycling centers one might see out in town, the RRPS takes residual ammunition packing or casing materials, separates them into different categories and offers them for sale to foundries and recyclers at a substantially less-expensive price than when it was top-dollar new.
On other military installations with similar training environments, the process to turn in ordnance-related recyclables is handled by the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office, a sub-division of the Defense Logistics Agency headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Va. Since the DLA is primarily a U.S. Army agency, however, any money received for recyclables, to include items sold through the DRMO lot, goes directly back into the overall Defense Department budget. Not so, for the RRPS. The money made from the work done here goes back into maintaining Combat Center training areas, according to Sanderson.
A direct benefit which impacts units conducting training is the decreased time it takes to do a turn-in at the RRPS rather than the old way still in use by many installations. This advantage means less time for Marines turning in range residue when they could be training.
“When a unit comes in, normally down there it used to take us between four and eight hours to do a turn-in,” Sanderson explained. Since the process has been taken over from DRMO locally, now it normally takes between 15 and 30 minutes for units to turn in their materials because the RRPS handles nothing but range residue – not hazardous waste or out-of-date hardware that needs to be sold to the public like other sections. They have only one mission and clear standard operating procedures to make this happen, which saves time.
However, one big reason it may take some units more time than necessary to turn in their items is because they don’t prepare, and according to Sanderson, a little preparation by the Marines on the range will save a lot of time for those two or three Marines doing the turn-in.
“The more preparation they do out there —the more segregation they do out there — the better off they are here,” he said. “I mean, brass from links, links from trash, wood from metal — as much as they can possibly do. We don’t ask that they separate the 5.56/7.62/9 mil [9mm] brass. That can go together. All the links can go together.
“If they’ll separate it a little bit, take the extra five or 10 minutes in the field, that could save them an hour when they get here,” Sanderson stated.