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Recycling pays off

Hundreds of pounds of copper tubing sits in a storage area at Schriever Air Force Base Colo.  Doug Chase, Schriever’s Qualified Recycling Program manager, is storing the tubing along with copper wire and plates in preparation for a large truck-load trip to a local scrap metal dealer.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott Prater)

Hundreds of pounds of copper tubing sits in a storage area at Schriever Air Force Base Colo. Doug Chase, Schriever’s Qualified Recycling Program manager, is storing the tubing along with copper wire and plates in preparation for a large truck-load trip to a local scrap metal dealer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott Prater)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- It's been a banner year for Schriever's Qualified Recycling Program.  Thanks to a remodeling project and a demolition, the QRP is set to more than triple last year's revenue.

Doug Chase, Schriever QRP manager reported that recycling revenue for 2014 will most likely top $40,000.

"The most we've produced in past years is $12,000," Chase said. "But, were capturing more recycling streams now and we're benefitting from a remodeling project at the Missile Defense Agency and the demolition of an antenna at the Army's 53rd Signal Battalion."

In a key development for the Schriever QRP, the MDA is replacing power transformers inside its building.

"The older transformers contain lots of copper, which is in high demand nowadays," Chase said.

Changing scrap metal rates are contributing to the increased revenue, but the most vital part of the QRP is Chase, who works diligently to separate valuable metals from insulation, fixtures and other metals.

"Take copper wire for example," Chase said. "It's most often surrounded by plastic insulation.  Well, in that condition a scrap metal vendor will pay roughly 20 cents a pound. However, if you remove the insulation it pays nearly $3 a pound. The same goes for copper ground rods and fixtures. If you don't remove the screws and attached wires, you make very little."

For the past month, demolition and construction crews have been depositing materials in large construction dumpsters near their sites. 

Chase is not far behind them.  He prefers not to dumpster dive, so he uses a back hoe and forklift to remove valuable items. Lately, he's been spending a lot of time removing copper insulation, but says the benefit to the QRP is well worth his time.

"On the large-diameter copper wire, I can strip about 700 pounds in 90 minutes," he said. "At today's rates that correlates to about $2,000. Not too shabby."

Andy Jenson, 50th Civil Engineer Squadron environmental flight chief, cautions that it's best to not count recycling dollars until the scrap metal has been redeemed for cash, but that Chase has made a big difference for Schriever's program.

"This is Doug's program," Jenson said.  It's just him and he has been aggressive about tracking down and identifying recycling streams that weren't available to us before."

The increased revenue also begs the question, where did scrap-metal recycling funds go in past demolition and remodeling projects, before Chase began working on behalf of the QRP.

"We're not insinuating that scrap metal was improperly handled," Chase said. "When dumpsters full of demolition and renovation material get hauled off to either the landfill or a mixed-use scrap dealer, it's difficult to assess how much if any revenue was generated and who benefitted.  With the QRP we have now though, we can separate materials to earn the most revenue and these funds can be used for activities that benefit the Schriever community."

For now, Chase is performing all of the work to prepare scrap metals for recycling, but he is hoping to purchase a machine that can strip insulation off small-diameter copper wire in the future. And, he believes he'll have no trouble gathering volunteers to help perform that work.

To learn more about Schriever's QRP or with questions about where to drop off recyclable materials call 567-4242.
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