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Recycling contract turns trash into treasure

  • Published
  • By Army Sgt. Robert G. Cooper III
  • 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
War is messy -- literally -- but U.S. forces, contractors and Iraqis found a way to turn the military's trash into Iraq's economic treasure.

Albu-Hussan-based Almandhour United Company oversees waste-management operations here following a ribbon-cutting ceremony July 10 that commemorated the opening of a recycling center here.

"This is a great day for Joint Base Balad because we've solved a problem that's been present here for a long time, and it's a great day because we have yet another opportunity to help the local economy," said Brig. Gen. Brian Bishop, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and installation commander.

The center is designed to spur green practices among Balad's waste management operations by creating a hub for recyclables to be collected and shipped to recycling plants throughout Iraq. 
In the past, recyclables have either been burned in incinerators or stockpiled throughout various holding areas on base. With the new recycling center, large amounts of aluminum, glass, plastics, cardboard and steel products will instead be packed up and shipped to recycling centers near Baghdad and sold on the Iraqi market.

Neseb Saad Hasan Altememy, the general manager for Almandhour United, said his company plans to profit most from the large amounts of aluminum thrown away on Balad. 

More than 90,000 aluminum soda cans are thrown away daily on post, according to U.S. Army figures. The center will be able to export more than a ton of aluminum each day, which goes for about $750 on the Iraqi market, Mr. Altememy said.

"With the addition of this center, Joint Base Balad looks to reduce its trash volume by literally tons a day," said Army Col. Kenneth Newlin, deputy commander of the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. "The center will also have the ability to drive new industries here and allow us to aggressively seek a new market for plastics recycling locally."

Besides providing a green approach to bolstering the Iraqi economy, the center will also present jobs to local Iraqis. 

"If we're ever going to leave this country, we have to build not only by supporting its people, but its economy, too," said Army Capt. Robert Yates, a contracting officer with the Air Force's Joint Contracting Command-Iraq.

Joint Contracting Command-Iraq crafted the contract, while Soldiers from the 76th Infantry BCC and the Indiana National Guard worked with the Iraqi-Based Industrial Zone, or I-BIZ, initiative to head up hiring and negotiations. Because both departments have strict hiring standards written into the contracts, the Iraqi people have first pick when it comes to these jobs.

"The I-BIZ program does an excellent job because it allows the U.S. government to share these kinds of contracts more often with the Iraqi people, rather than with larger contractors who are here from other countries," Mr. Altememy said. "We feel like we have developed trust from the U.S., and so now better jobs are available to us."

Better jobs equal better security measures to coalition forces, said Army Capt. Lynn Thompson, Joint Base Balad's waste management officer.

"We give them a safe job, so they don't need a dangerous one like shooting at American Soldiers or planting improvised explosive devices," Captain Thompson said.
Besides making money for its host nation, U.S. Forces plan to profit from the contract in the form of cost savings. Originally, a contract with non-Iraqi contractors was envisioned, with a price tag of about $1.5 million per year. Because Almandhour United will profit from the recyclables alone, no bidding costs were incurred through contracting agreements.

"They key is that we're doing this for free," Captain Yates said. "Rather than paying one contractor to help look after our environment, we instead took a win-win approach by choosing to localize."

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