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ANG's top recycling program resides in Tucson

(From the left) Tech. Sgt. Rick Slouha, Cheryl Settle, Lt. Col. Mike Knutson (back), Col. Garry Beauregard, Col. Mick McGuire and Col. Ted Maxwell survey the 162nd Fighter Wing's recycling area south of building 28 on base. The wing's recycling program was recently named "Best in the Air National Guard." (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

(From the left) Tech. Sgt. Rick Slouha, Cheryl Settle, Lt. Col. Mike Knutson (back), Col. Garry Beauregard, Col. Mick McGuire and Col. Ted Maxwell survey the 162nd Fighter Wing's recycling area south of building 28 on base. The wing's recycling program was recently named "Best in the Air National Guard." (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Cheryl Settle, an environmental programs specialist at the 162nd Fighter Wing, tosses cardboard into a bailer that constructs half-ton bails that are later sold to recycling companies. The wing’s environmental office worked with all base units over several years to produce the best recycling program in the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Gabe Johnson)

Cheryl Settle, an environmental programs specialist at the 162nd Fighter Wing, tosses cardboard into a bailer that constructs half-ton bails that are later sold to recycling companies. The wing’s environmental office worked with all base units over several years to produce the best recycling program in the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Gabe Johnson)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- If it can be reused, recycled or reduced, the 162nd Fighter Wing here leads the Air National Guard in diverting material from landfills with its robust environmental programs.

Air Force officials recognized the base's environmental management office at the Air Force Environmental and Occupational Health Symposium last month with "Best Recycling Program" honors among all 88 Air Guard wings in the country.

"I'm proud of the base and how the recycling initiatives we take on in the wing nets savings for the unit and the government. Most importantly, it's environmentally conscious," said Col. Mick McGuire, 162nd Fighter Wing commander. "I think Lt. Col. Mike Knutson and Cheryl Settle in our environmental office - under their leadership and innovative thinking - are the reason we're number one among all 88 wings."

Since 2006 the F-16 Fighting Falcon base at Tucson International Airport recycled more than 2 million pounds of cardboard, paper, metal, oil and plastic. Much of the material generated funds to enhance the unit's environmental stewardship and other key projects on base.

Cheryl Settle, an environmental programs specialist here, said recycling reached current levels after years of base education and environmental advocacy.

"When we started, we had to constantly remind people about our recycling programs. Now our base has such an active recycling program that people here call me with ideas or questions about how recycle more material," said Settle.

"We go out and find the highest bidders for our recyclables," she said. "Last year we were paid $150 per ton of cardboard, and the base recycles about one ton per month. We have almost $140,000 in our Qualified Recycling Program. We use half of the money for pollution prevention projects and the other half for Morale, Welfare and Readiness."

In 2009 the 162nd used $100,000 from its QRP to purchase six solar-powered flood lights - a vast improvement on fuel-burning generator flood lights, and an effort that helped the wing meet federal goals in the reduction of energy consumption.

Additionally, recycling has helped fund motorcycle safety programs and annual events like the wing's Family Appreciation Day.

With clear benefits for the environment and for Tucson's Air Guard, wing members are reminded that just about anything can be recycled on base.

"People can bring their items from home to be recycled. Old appliances, swamp coolers, pipes, wires, cardboard... anything," Settle said. "When they do bring their items, we just ask that they remove all contents like foam, plastic or other trash."

Cardboard, aluminum cans and plastic bottles can be dropped off at the bailers located south of building 28. Paper and metal recycling bins are located by building 3.

"This is another example of how the 162nd Fighter Wing is the best at what ever mission we're assigned," said McGuire. "If it's recycling, we're going to be the best at recycling. If it's flying F-16s, we're going to be the best at flying F-16s. Being number one of 88 is a good thing in this regard and I'm proud of them."