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Slick oil recycling program saves USAF over $300K

Bryan Schuler and Michael Keith, hazardous waste technicians, load a centrifuge with absorbent pads used to clean up used oil. The centrifuge then spins the pads at a high rate in order to separate the oil into an exterior container to be consolidated with other barrels of used oil. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Dickens/Released)

Bryan Schuler and Michael Keith, hazardous waste technicians, load a centrifuge with absorbent pads used to clean up used oil. The centrifuge then spins the pads at a high rate in order to separate the oil into an exterior container to be consolidated with other barrels of used oil. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Dickens/Released)

Airman 1st Class Christian Burris, CV-22 Crew Chief, 727 Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron uses an absorbent pad to clean up used oil. By recycling the used oil, Cannon AFB saves more than $300,000 annually in hazardous waste removal. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Dickens/Released)

Airman 1st Class Christian Burris, CV-22 Crew Chief, 727 Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron uses an absorbent pad to clean up used oil. By recycling the used oil, Cannon AFB saves more than $300,000 annually in hazardous waste removal. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Dickens/Released)

Bryan Schuler and Michael Keith, hazardous waste technicians, extract and fold clean absorbent pads from the industrial waste centrifuge to prepare them for use. Once the oils have been separated, the pads will be returned to their respective squadrons for reuse. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Dickens/Released)

Bryan Schuler and Michael Keith, hazardous waste technicians, extract and fold clean absorbent pads from the industrial waste centrifuge to prepare them for use. Once the oils have been separated, the pads will be returned to their respective squadrons for reuse. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Dickens/Released)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

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.”