Army Develops Innovative Recycling Process

The U.S. Army recently completed a project that resulted in recycling more than 6.5 million pounds of steel – enough to build 26 Statues of Liberty or 2500 cars.

In September 2003, Chemical Materials Agency (CMA) began operating the Pine Bluff Ton Container Decontamination Facility at Pine Bluff Arsenal, Ark., to decontaminate 4,307 ton containers stored at the arsenal.

Although empty, the 1,600-pound steel containers once held hazardous materials and required decontamination to eliminate possible residual chemical agent prior to recycling.

Initial efforts to decontaminate the containers involved rinsing them; however, the residual chemical agent proved difficult to remove, so a new approach had to be found. When faced with producing an additional 660,000 gallons of hazardous liquid waste to rinse the containers, CMA personnel designed a magnetic induction heating process to decontaminate up to 10 containers simultaneously.

Not only did this generate significantly less waste, but it also thoroughly decontaminated the containers so they could be processed through a commercial recycling plant. 

"It’s not every day that a single project achieves such high marks in waste reduction and recycling efforts, while eliminating significant hazardous waste risks," says Conrad Whyne, CMA Director.

The process used an electrically energized copper coil, wrapped around the container, to generate a magnetic field that was absorbed by the iron in the container. This raised the temperature of the TC to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, where it was held for 60 minutes.

Heating to 1,000 degrees destroys all chemical agents. The decontamination process also featured a carefully designed pollution abatement system to capture any residual material vented from the TCs.

"The decision to decontaminate these legacy containers using magnetic induction heating made the recycling of the containers possible," says Laurence Gottschalk, CMA’s Project Manager for Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel. "Instead of taking up significant space in a landfill indefinitely, we found a solution that benefits our environment and the community, contributing more than six million pounds of recycled steel."

The U.S. Army Non-Stockpile Chemical Material Project, part of the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency, leads the Nation in the assessment and treatment of recovered chemical warfare materiel. For more information:

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Comments on “Army Develops Innovative Recycling Process”

  1. Kati

    I love this post, and how your put your own “tech” spin on your earth day post. I am really bad about rynlceicg my old phones and ink cartridges so that’s another to-do item on my “green changes” list.


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