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Slick oil recycling program saves USAF over $300K

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Charles Dickens
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

One of the most important aspects of the U.S. Air Force is to ensure aircraft are put into the air and that they have the resources and maintenance performed to successfully complete their mission. Maintenance includes a wide array of processes for each individual aircraft, but there is one thing that remains static across all airframes: oil. Changing oil is a vital part of keeping any engine running smoothly, but what happens to all of the old, used oil once it’s changed?


Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. has its own industrial recycling program. This program is specifically aimed at handling and disposing the smallest amount of hazardous material as possible. An aspect of this program includes the recycling of absorbent pads used to collect and clean up oil used in machines from around base. By recycling this material, Cannon AFB is able to divert a large amount of funds from hazardous waste removal to other projects around the installation.


“This program alone saves the installation more than $300,000 per year,” said Jake Madril, 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron Solid Waste/Qualified Recycling manager. “That’s achieved with a lot of effort being applied to diverting costs away from landfills and hazardous waste disposals.”


A major component used in the process of being able to divert costs from hazardous waste disposals is called a centrifuge. The centrifuge spins rapidly enough that the oils are extracted from the absorbent pads being used to clean up used oil and diverted to an external holding area. This action cleans the pads so that they may be reused and separates the oil to allow it to be added to bulk used oil drums.


While oil is a major part of what the industrial recycling program does, there are several other areas that also focus on avoiding hazardous waste.


“The program gets the greatest amount of yield and cost avoidance,” said Sean Wolfe, Hazardous Waste/Hazardous Material site manager, “as opposed to managing all of the waste oil and drums, absorbent pads and aerosol cans as hazardous waste. If we were managing all of these assets as hazardous waste, the management time would be exponentially larger than as a recyclable.”


The industrial recycling program also manages battery recycling with the exception of alkaline batteries. If an office has a large number of batteries, they can call the hazardous waste recycling center for a pick-up. But what about those who only have a few batteries lying around?


“If you have people who have a small number of batteries, they can bring them to the industrial recycling facility,” Madril said. “We have containers set up for just that: collecting small numbers.”


The industrial recycling center exists for the sole purpose of helping Airmen and helping to save Cannon money to be used elsewhere.


“For any questions about if we can pick it up or not, it’s just a matter of asking,” Wolfe said. “We’re here to help, and that’s the bottom line. We’re here to educate, to help manage, or to take care of problems.”