Like many of its predecessors, the Bath Iron Works continues Maine’s tradition of shipbuilding. Located along the banks of the Kennebec River, the half-mile long shipyard constructs primarily large naval vessels.
In January 1992, however, the Bath Iron Works began a tradition of its own: the recycling of empty steel paint and aerosol cans.
Steel paint and aerosol can scrap is generated by the shipyard because the vessels are painted during construction. A system to ensure the removal of empty, dry paint and aerosol cans from the shipyard’s solid waste stream was implemented.
Five paint dispensing centers distribute paint in cardboard holders to employees. Paint is poured into the cardboard holders, and any paint left over from construction is emptied into 55-gallon drums. Emptied paint cans are then placed into small bins and allowed to air dry. Distributed aerosol paint cans once completely empty are collected in small bins and are then returned to the dispensing center.
Daily, these bins are loaded onto a pallet and taken by forklift to the shipyard’s centrally-located processing center. The center contains a can crusher and a pair of drum compactors to store the cans for recycling. The paint cans are crushed and placed into a large roll-off. Similarly, aerosol cans are run through specialty equipment to de-pressurize and compact them into large 55-gallon drums. The drums, along with any damaged drums, and steel welding wire cans are also placed inside the roll-off.
“We process steel cans at our facility because we really don’t want to see these containers get landfilled,” said Harold Arndt, waste management administrator for the shipyard. “Besides, steel cans are fully recyclable materials and the program pays for itself.”
An empty roll-off is swapped for the full roll-off bimonthly and transported by truck to an intermediate processing facility. There, steel cans are magnetically removed from the roll-off and placed into a compactor to be baled. The baled cans are magnetically moved for shipment to domestic ad foreign end markets.