HomeNewsArticle Display

‘Recycle Al’ turns passion into purpose

Alan Howell, a contractor for Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, stands near a recycle container in his work center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Nov. 10. Howell is known as ‘Recycle Al’ and has been doing his part to keep recyclable materials out of the landfill for more than 30 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jaima Fogg)

Alan Howell, a contractor for Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, stands near a recycle container in his work center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Nov. 10. Howell is known as ‘Recycle Al’ and has been doing his part to keep recyclable materials out of the landfill for more than 30 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jaima Fogg)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- 

 National Recycling Day is officially observed each year on Nov. 15, but every day is recycling day for Alan Howell.

In the late 1980s, Howell worked on the C-17 program for Air Force Logistics Command. To promote Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s recycling program, the Recycling Operations Center placed a 2,000-pound bundle of cardboard on display in the headquarters building. The bundle represented just one week’s worth of material that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

Inspired to take action, Howell began collecting his work center’s recyclable items and disposing of them in the correct containers near his building. He also started paying attention to containers around base, and if one was full, he’d notify the ROC.

“I’d say, ‘hey, this is Recycle Al,’” said Howell, now a senior logistician for the KC-46 aircrew training program. “So they’d know I appreciated what they were doing.”

The ROC is responsible for about 300 containers, and keeping up with the base’s recycling needs is a daunting task. Recycling center personnel appreciate the extra set of eyes.

“He’s been contacting the ROC for years with updates on containers throughout the installation,” said Thomas Doucette, Recycling Operations Center manager. “Whether it is an overflowing cardboard container in Area B or a paper dumpster in Kittyhawk that is bursting at the seams, we can always count on Al to vigilantly and accurately keep us aware of issues needing our attention.”

Howell’s passion for recycling has now spanned more than three decades. He has since retired from civil service and now works as a contractor.

But he still collects and properly disposes of paper, aluminum and plastics. If the base does not accept certain items, Howell will take them to a local recycling center.

“I’m not trying to make a name for myself,” he said. “I’m passionate about it. It’s just something I feel the need to do.”

Howell said he’s noticed much more of an awareness now than when he arrived at Wright-Patt in 1985 and everything went in the landfill. He encourages people to start off small and hopes his quiet influence sparks others into action.

National Recycling Day, which began in 1997, celebrates awareness and promotes proper ways to recycle.

Recycling Operations Center officials at WPAFB encourage people to properly dispose of recyclables and trash. Paper and cardboard should not be mixed and trash goes in dumpsters.

Private tours of the ROC are available by calling 937-257-4889 or emailing thomas.doucette@us.af.mil.

Read more about Wright-Patt’s recycling program here:

https://www.wpafb.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2809136/recycling-center-handles-it-all/