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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle on America Recycles Day

  • Published
  • By Mindy Love
  • 20th Civil Engineer Squadron
This year, the world as we know it changed as we roiled in a global pandemic. As Americans were shuttered in their homes supply chains across the world struggled to meet demands. No one could have predicted the toilet paper rush of 2020.

Residential recycling took a hit when curbside collections slowed or halted. Today, Americans consider recycling an essential need and industry agrees. Companies are using materials collected through recycling programs around the country as a source of raw materials for products from shipping boxes used in e-commerce to product packaging and to the all-important necessity, toilet paper.

Every year on November 15, we celebrate America Recycles Day by promoting recycling in the days immediately preceding and following the official day. Although this year’s celebration may look different from years past, the need to promote more and better recycling exists now more than ever.

This November, Team Shaw is focusing on increasing recycling in offices base-wide. The Air Force’s waste diversion goals mandate that installations focus on reducing the amount of solid waste sent to landfills.

A waste reduction goal should follow the waste hierarchy, whereby the most preferred option is to reduce waste in the first place, followed by reuse of materials, then recycling before finally sending waste to the landfill for disposal.

Reducing single use plastics such as plastic bags, cups, straws and lids are a great way to start reducing your plastic footprint. Another way to help improve recycling is to recycle the correct way.

Remember, not everything is recyclable. And recycling is not the same in every state or community. The most important thing to keep in mind is recycling according to local guidelines. “Wish-cycling”, or recycling things you would like your local recyclers to process even though they can’t, hurts recycling programs. Not only is it expensive due to the impact on equipment, it creates more waste and can potentially be harmful for recycling workers.

When recycling at Shaw, it’s important to KNOW YOUR NO’S:

- No bagged recyclables. Bags are the number one contaminant in recycling. Bags tangle around the equipment at the material recycling facility, or MRF (pronounced merf), forcing operators to stop the machinery to manually cut the twisted bags away from gears. Leave recycling items loose and free.

- No “tanglers”. Items such as plastic bags, hoses, chords, holiday lights – anything that can tangle around the gears in the equipment should not go in the recycling. Properly dispose of these items in the trash.

- No cups, straws, lids, or tiny things such as bits of paper and small items. Single use plastics such as cups, straws and lids splinter easily. The MRF sorting technology cannot sort these items. Any cups, straws, lids and anything smaller than a business card should go in the trash.

- No textiles. Old clothing should be donated to a convenience center or thrift store.

- No food waste. Ensure containers are free from food and liquids. You don’t need to wash them out, but don’t throw containers full of food or liquids in the recycling. It contaminates the recycling stream and causes issues with the expensive sorting equipment.

- No batteries or aerosol cans. Used batteries may contain hazardous materials and both batteries and aerosol cans pose a fire risk when disposed of improperly.

- No pumps or tubes. Items made of more than one material can’t be recycled. Place them in the trash.

- No Styrofoam. Styrofoam doesn’t belong in the recycling bin. Instead, try to reduce single-use Styrofoam or put it in the trash where it belongs.

- No plastic film or wrap. Take clean, dry plastic wrap such as plastic bags, wraps and packaging back to a local retailer such as a grocery store. For more information or to find a location near you, please visit

- No paper towels or napkins. Paper towels, napkins and tissue is often soiled and too thin to recycle. Place them in the compost or trash.

- No glass. While glass is a highly recyclable item, the cost of recycling glass usually outweighs the benefit, therefore it’s not collected on Shaw AFB.

COVID-19 may have impacted recycling across the country, which is why it’s imperative to recycle items that the recycling center accepts while reducing contaminants. We need your help to increase our waste diversion and one way we can do this is through recycling. Let’s aim high and focus on recycling the right way on Shaw AFB!

For more information on solid waste and recycling, please contact Danny McKay at 803-895-5006 or Mindy Love at 803-895-0333.