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Turning brass into cash: Recycling program boosts revenue

By Brad Rhen | Pennsylvania National Guard | Sept. 24, 2020

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – Service members who have spent time at the rifle range know the day isn't over until the brass is policed.

But where does it go?

Expended brass shell casings are one of the many materials collected at Fort Indiantown Gap as part of the Qualified Recycling Program. Known as QRP, it is an installation-managed and run recycling program to prevent pollution and minimizing environmental impacts.

Qualified recyclable materials are collected at Fort Indiantown Gap and other military facilities in Pennsylvania. Most are either sold directly via public sale or through established scrap sales programs. The net proceeds are deposited into the installation's QRP account.

"It's a great program," said Dreama R. O'Neal, environmental manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs' Bureau of Environmental Management. "It not only recycles a lot of commodities, it keeps the items out of the landfill."

The revenue can be spent on a variety of projects and programs, such as environmental and safety projects and morale, welfare and recreation for the Soldiers, Airmen and civilians at Fort Indiantown Gap and across the state.

Expended brass shell casings that are turned in by Soldiers to the Fort Indiantown Gap Ammunition Supply Point are the top recycled material in Pennsylvania, O'Neal said. Other recyclables collected include various types of scrap metal, cardboard, office paper, aluminum cans and plastic soda bottles.

Pennsylvania National Guard maintenance groups also recycle waste oil, used antifreeze and tires.

The environmental office recycles the used antifreeze at Fort Indiantown Gap.

"We have specific equipment where we physically operate the recycling of used antifreeze and subsequently, produce good, usable, recycled antifreeze to issue back out to the maintenance community," O'Neal said.

Rather than paying a waste hauler to take used antifreeze, units can drop it off at the recycling facility and pick up newly recycled antifreeze at no cost. The recycled antifreeze is certified by the U.S. Army Petroleum Laboratory in New Cumberland.

"Most of the savings will be on the back end – the disposal costs," said Clark Romberger, a supervisor with the Bureau of Environmental Management who operates the antifreeze recycling facility. "It's considered a hazardous waste, so it can be expensive to dispose of it."

Romberger estimated the antifreeze recycling operation alone saves the DMVA about $24,000 a year.

A 20-member committee that meets quarterly oversees the QRP. It includes representatives from various offices and directorates, such as the property and fiscal office, the judge advocate general office, facilities and engineering, the training site and the environmental office.

Col. Lane Marshall, garrison commander, agreed that the QRP is a great program, especially considering all the spent shell casings that are collected at Fort Indiantown Gap, which is one of the busiest National Guard training centers in the country.

"Not only does it keep recyclable items out of the landfill and improve the environment, it brings money back to the installation that can be used for other environmental programs and for MWR programs for Soldiers and Airmen training here," he said. "It's a win-win for us."

O'Neal considers the QRP a successful program despite the need for further employee education, both at Fort Indiantown Gap and statewide.

"There are many recyclables that we are collecting; however, it needs to be explained better to the employees," she said.