OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- The Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island recycle center hosted a waste characterization study April 1 to kick off Earth Month.
This is the 19th year the recycle center has conducted this study, which is nicknamed "Dumpster Diving." Volunteers from Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit Whidbey Island, the Electronic Warfare Squadron 129 First Class Association, Personnel Support Detachment Whidbey Island, and NAS Whidbey Island Public Works all contributed to the project.
"We have to get back with the commands for education outreach," said Paul Brewer, solid waste management director for NAS Whidbey Island. "Sometimes, people say 'get rid of it,' and they find the easiest way, so we have to educate them that it costs them money by throwing it away. We need to beef up our education because you're always constantly having new Sailors come in."
The 18 personnel were split into four teams to separate trash from recyclables to determine which areas of waste management NAS Whidbey Island personnel need education. The recycle center also provided 14 volunteers to assist and to ensure safety and proper dispersion of the waste and recyclables.
Performing the study in this manner, rather than hiring a private contractor, saves the base approximately $20,000.
"We do it because Earth Day is supposed to be every day, and we do it because it's the right thing to do," said Capt. Gerral David, NAS Whidbey Island commanding officer.
"We also do it because we can't afford to throw everything away; this program made about $450,000 a year selling recyclable stuff, so we make money off of this. We also avoid $1.5 million by not sending it to a landfill. That's two million dollars that I can spend on things that are more important than garbage."
NAS Whidbey Island leadership tries to instill in their Sailors the values of environmental stewardship, and some take it to heart.
"It takes 10 times more energy to transport and sort the recycling from everyone else's trash versus the two extra seconds it takes you to sort it into bins," said Personnel Specialist 3rd Class (SW/AW) Romeo Espana, of Fleet Readiness Center Northwest.
"Every pound of unsorted trash is another gallon of gas and another man hour we didn't have to pay for. Money's tight enough as it is Navywide, and I don't want my base MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) fund competing with the garbage."
Navy Whidbey Recycle has received numerous accolades in recent years for their efforts in environmental stewardship, including the Washington State recycler of the year, first place government agency 'Keep America Beautiful' award, and the American forests and paper recycling award.
"That's not because I'm doing it or Paul (Brewer) is doing it, that's because all of you that are part Team Whidbey are taking care of all of the right things," said David. "That's all part of what we do well as Team Whidbey, and I want you to know that I'm proud of all of you for what you do."
Out of a total 2,015 pounds of trash in four dumpsters, 1,515 were recycled, which is a 75 percent diversion from the waste stream.
"Trust me when I say it's not fun to clean and sort this stuff, but someone has to do it," said Espana. "Those guys at recycling really are something else, and Earth Day gives us a chance to remember and appreciate what they do for us every day."
Earth Month activities will continue in the form of a beach and housing clean-up at Victory Park on the NAS Whidbey Island Seaplane Base, April 17.
For more news from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, visit www.navy.mil/local/naswhidbey/.