Cannon engineers walk the trash talk for award

Janet Taylor-Birkey

Cannon wins ‘green’ honors for fifth straight year
The men and women working at the 27th Civil Engineer Squadron like talking trash.
After all, talking about trash, along with doing their best to get rid of it, has garnered this squadron and Cannon the impressive Green Zia award for the past five years. This meant diverting more than 7,000 tons of recyclable or reusable materials away from the local, municipal landfill according to a study written for the New Mexico Green Zia competition.
Diverting the materials brought about a 65 percent diversion rate, while the goal is 40 percent. Exceeding diversion goals resulted in Cannon being the first federal installation to achieve the Green Zia Excellence award in New Mexico, outranking Holloman and Kirtland Air Force Bases.
The high ranking is due to what Jake Madril, 27th Civil Engineer Squadron, calls the three r’s; reduce, reuse and recycle, which are key to preventing pollution and managing waste.
Reducing endeavors at Cannon includes learning new ways to deal with existing materials. This often turns reducing efforts into making money instead of paying, as in the case with oily rags, which are now cleaned and reused rather than paying to have them taken away.
In reusing efforts, Cannon partners with the Clovis Regional Landfill to divert yard waste consisting of grass clippings, leaves, shrubs and tree limbs from the base. The city grinds it into mulch and uses what it can. Curry County and Cannon residents may pick up free mulch from the landfill for personal use.
Along with natural materials such as yard waste, Cannon’s waste water is also reusable. Using standardized tests to ensure water safety, the water is used on the golf course helping the greens stay green.
Reducing and reusing are followed by recycling. Recycling brings a unique joy to the 27th CES when they are able to help others, such as Habitat for Humanity, through their effort and foresight.
When buildings on base are demolished, the building and its contents become the property of the contractor, but Cannon does not miss this opportunity to make things better for others. Every building demolition contract states that usable plumbing, lighting and fixtures will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.
Reducing, reusing and recycling furthers taxpayers money and allows Cannon the ability to purchase more jet fuel, furthering its flying mission. “[Saving money through recycling] gives [pilots] more time to stay in the air. That’s more money available for fuel for the jets to fly,” said Mr. Timmons.
Contracting with Chenega Management, Cannon has been a leader in pursuing innovative technologies and purchasing equipment such as a centrifuge to clean and recycle oily rags, previously considered hazardous waste. Now instead of paying to get rid of the rags, Cannon makes money by selling the oil extracted from the rags and recycle the rags by returning them to the customer.
Modern technology such as this, coupled with awareness, means better recycling abilities. These abilities put Cannon on the cutting edge of base recycling efforts and have profited Cannon more than $55,000 in 2005, said Rick Doll, Chenega Management site manager.
“Everyone talks about recycling and thinks it will just save space, but they don’t realize the economic impact you get from it,” said Dennis Timmons, Chief of the Environmental Flight.
While the efforts are noteworthy, CES said they are not the only ones responsible for the recycling program and changes at Cannon. “We’re the promoters, but the real people who help us reach those numbers are the base populace,” said Mr. Madril.
“There is still room for improvement. We try to educate people, but we can still find plastic bottles and aluminum cans in people’s trash,” said Gene Smith, Earth Day Celebration Sponsor.
CES stresses there are very few reasons not to join the recycling efforts at the base. “We are making it as convenient as possible. We’ve got dumpsters by the hospital parking lot and bins in every building on base,” said Mr. Timmons.
“That’s the key; the easier you make it, the better chance you have for [squadrons] to stay in compliance,” said Mr. Doll.