(Photo courtesy of Triple Flare Recycling)
Helping Wildland Firefighting Camps Reduce Landfill Waste
Supporting wildland firefighters means supplying bottled water and Gatorade by the pallet load. Making sure all that waste is recycled has been a low priority for crews tackling miles of wildfire, but that’s changing in the Willamette National Forest.
The U.S. Forest Service hired Triple Flare Recycling, based in Bend, to manage waste at fire camps this season and is already seeing results. Triple Flare is collecting 10,000 plastic water bottles each week and seven yards of cardboard a day, company founder Phil Torchio said.
Forest Service managers began talking with Torchio, who also owns the event cleanup and recycling firm The Broomsmen, in 2016 about waste management services. Torchio said the need for a Broomsmen-style system at fire camp was obvious.
“The amount of trash they were producing was insane,” Torchio said. “We are a Bend- based startup company exploring innovative community driven resource management solutions. We specialize in sustainability consulting and next generation landfill diversion systems for cities, businesses, organizations, special events, festivals and Les Schwab Amphitheater. This includes zero waste management, resource collection & recycling, litter controls, sustainable power sources and water refill stations.
“We firmly believe that eliminating single use plastics from our events and festivals will help the Bend community move towards a more sustainable future. Our mission is to explore, evaluate, and implement emerging green technologies to solve complex environmental issues.”
Triple Flare, which Torchio created to service government contracts, conducted waste audits and determined that 70 percent of fire camp trash could be recycled or composted. With approval to run only a recycling program, Triple Flare is diverting 44 percent of the waste generated by crews fighting the Whitewater Fire, which covers 15 square miles and employs hundreds of personnel.
Triple Flare’s base of operations is the incident command post at Hoodoo Ski Resort. A crew makes rounds each day to collect recyclable material from three different camps.
Water bottles are being redeemed for Oregon’s 10-cent deposit on bottles and cans. Office paper, cardboard, aluminum food cans and motor oil bottles also are frequently recycled.
Torchio said forest service and bureau of land management managers deserve credit for taking a proactive approach to waste management. Now that Triple Flare is quantifying the recyclable material, the next step might be eliminating disposable bottles in the first place, Torchio said.