‘Tis the season to recycle

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Brian Kimball
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs


Every holiday season, we put our gifts in boxes, wrap them in paper and add a little extra pizazz. But once they are opened, we throw it all away in the municipal waste or recycling bins. Here at RAF Alconbury, England, there is a team that manages all that waste and is continually making efforts towards protecting the environment, human health, and turning those recyclable holiday items into revenue. That team is the 423rd Civil Engineering Squadron Environmental Management section.

They are a seven-person team but each member “wears two or three hats,” according to Duncan McKnight, 432rd CES chief of environmental management . The team manages several programs, including air quality, natural and cultural resources, hazardous material, water preservation, pest management, protection of endangered species, and recycling, just to name a few.   

The recycling program is directly affected by every person working and living at RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth. Each person plays a vital role in ensuring the program is a success by making sure they are recycling the right materials into the correct bins. Per the 423rd Air Base Group Environmental Policy, “Environmental quality and protection is the responsibility of everyone who works and lives in the base area.”

In addition, there are two members of the environmental team that process all of this recycled material each week at the RAF Alconbury recycling center and sift through the items to make sure the materials are being recycled properly. Matthew Smith and Martin Lamb are the two individuals that handle all the cans, cardboard, plastics, clothing, and metal that Airmen and families put in the recycling bins.

“Some or our busiest times at the recycling center are during the holidays and PCS season,”said Smith.

 According to a 2016 report by the Environmental Protection Agency, “The average American produces about 5.91 pounds of trash each day, with about 1.51 pounds being recycled.” The RAF Alconbury recycling center processes a yearly average of 350 tons of recycled material that is sold to processing companies in the local economy. The profits made from the recycled materials are put back into the installation.

“The issue that we face is when contaminates such as municipal waste are mixed in with the recycling,” said Lamb. “If contaminates are found after the recycled material has been shipped off, we might lose some of that return revenue.”

The environmental section is involved in multiple aspects of daily base operations, – engaging in everything from managing petroleum, oil and lubricants to protecting the endangered Great Crested Newt.

“We interact with U.S. Military, contractors, civilians and a variety of people which makes it a really interesting place to work,” said McKnight. “We try to be helpful so we continually stay focused on our environmental priorities.

During this holiday season, share your holiday gratitude for your environmental management team by doing your part to properly recycle your waste and protect the environment.

For more information on recycling and the environmental policy at the 501st Combat Support Wing, please visit the links below.

422nd Air Base Group (RAF Croughton, RAF Fairford, RAF Welford): www.501csw.usafe.af.mil/422nd-EPS/

423rd Air Base Group (RAF Alconbury, RAF Molesworth, RAF Menwith Hill, Stavanger): www.501csw.usafe.af.mil/423rdEPS/

Members of the 423rd Civil Engineer Squadron’s environmental team process recycled waste for RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth at the recycling facility at RAF Alconbury, England on Nov. 15, 2019. The two man recycling team that run the facility process an average of 350 tons of recycled material each year. (U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt. Brian Kimball)