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123rd Airlift Wing recycling effort diverts 250 tons of paper from landfill

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing have recycled about 250 tons of paper since 1993, thanks to a facility-wide waste-reduction program at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. The base also recycles batteries, toner cartridges and cardboard, among other items.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Joshua Horton)

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing have recycled about 250 tons of paper since 1993, thanks to a facility-wide waste-reduction program at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. The base also recycles batteries, toner cartridges and cardboard, among other items. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Joshua Horton)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing have recycled about 250 tons of paper since 1993, thanks to a waste-reduction program here that diverts trash from local landfills while leveraging resources and saving money.

The base typically recycles between 12 and 16 tons of paper every year, said Philip Aschbacher, environmental manager for the 123rd Airlift Wing.

"It helps the environment and provides new life to the paper," Aschbacher said of the program, which uses multiple collection points across the base to encourage participation.

"The other side of (recycling) is that, as a federal agency, all the printer paper we use has to be at least 30 percent recycled content. With recycling, we're just closing the circle: It helps the people who are recycling the paper have an aftermarket for selling it after they've made it into paper again."

Recycling helps make the wing a good steward of the environment, Aschbacher said, but it also provides financial benefits by lowering the bill for waste-disposal fees.

Aschbacher noted that the amount of collected paper has steadily increased, thanks in part to a growing awareness of the need to conserve resources.

"There has been steady improvement over the years," he said. "I think the base has been doing a remarkable job."

In addition to paper, the 123rd Airlift Wing also recycles cardboard, wooden pallets, plastic, aluminum, copper, tires, yard waste, solvents, oil, antifreeze, lead-acid batteries, 55-gallon drums and toner cartridges, among other items.

Recycling is just one component of a comprehensive base-wide environmental policy that calls for energy conservation, pollution prevention and regular environmental assessments, according to Col. Warren Hurst, wing commander.

"The Kentucky Air National Guard is committed to conducting its mission in an environmentally responsible manner," Hurst said. "This commitment goes beyond compliance with the law and encompasses the integration of sound environmental practices into our daily decisions and activities.

"We have in the past, and will continue in the future, to pursue a course of responsible environmental stewardship."

In 2012, for example, the 123rd Communications Flight installed new computer network servers that reduced energy consumption by up to 84 percent while maintaining the same level of performance, according to Tom Spalding, an environmental technician for the 123rd Airlift Wing.

The base also employs "smart" utility meters that track consumption of electricity and natural gas to identify opportunities for increased efficiency, Spalding said.