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Recognizing recyclers - Bitterroot company, Garlick Helicopters Inc., receives EcoStar award for its efforts to conserve and reuse

February 19, 2003View for printing

It's not easy to recycle in the Bitterroot Valley. And for some businesses and environmental-friendly individuals, recycling is costly.

By JENNY JOHNSON Staff Reporter

But that hasn't stopped Garlick Helicopters, Inc. from recycling everything it can - from paper to solvents to pop cans.

Regulated by federal and state environmental quality agencies because Garlick deals with chemicals like oil, paint and solvents, the company goes beyond the call of duty when it comes to recycling. Every desk has a box for recycled paper, and in every shop area there is a place to recycle paper and aluminum cans.

"It's not easy to do in the valley," Garlick President John Angelo said. "We recognize the need to step up and lead by example when it comes to recycling."

That's one reason why Garlick was among seven western Montana small businesses to be recognized for their efforts to reduce waste.

This year's EcoStar winners, honored by the Montana State Extension Service, ranged from dry cleaners to restaurants and were selected for their commitment to waste reduction, resource conservation and employee and customer education about reducing waste, according to Cali Morrison, project coordinator at MSU's pollution prevention program.

Garlick is a mainstay in the program - it's received the kudos every year since the program's inception in 1997. And it can't stay an EcoStar winner just by maintaining the status quo, Morrison said. To continue to win the award, companies have to show improvements in pollution prevention every year.

Last year, Garlick added recycling receptacles to its facilities. The company, which refurbishes, builds and repairs helicopters, pays for the personnel to complete the recycling tasks. Paper, for example, must be loaded into a truck and taken to Missoula for recycling.

In addition, the company incurs costs to recycle oil and paint. A Missoula company picks up the oil for recycling into oil-burning heat stoves. And paint that is taken off of old military helicopters is reused in cement blocks, Angelo said. Ultimately, recycling saves the company thousands of dollars in waste disposal charges.

"Pretty much all of our waste products are recycled - oil and all the byproducts," he said. "There are a lot of environmental issues associated with our company, but we make sure we're above and beyond being in compliance."

The 25-year-old company saves approximately $5,000 to $15,000 each year through its pollution-prevention efforts, Angelo said. Biodegradable detergents and cleaners have replaced the caustic detergents and chlorinated strippers previously used, and energy use has been reduced by using programmable thermostats and lower settings. Cooling water from the engine test cell is now reused to help reduce water consumption. Parts are tracked electronically to avoid paper inventory lists. All products are closely monitored to ensure first-in, first-out stock rotation, and dated materials are tested before being discarded. Garlick recycles approximately 500 gallons of oil and 25 gallons of solvent annually, Angelo said.

The goal of the pollution prevention program is to give businesses an incentive to reduce waste and to help customers make more informed purchasing decisions, Morrison said.

Any small business in eligible for EcoStar recognition if it is a non-governmental business, generates less than 2,200 pounds of hazardous waste each month, is in compliance with environmental regulations, has taken steps to go beyond minimum state and federal standards and is willing to receive an on-site visit from the Montana Pollution Prevention Program staff.

Awards are given to businesses demonstrating achievement in waste reduction, energy conservation and water conservation. According to program officials at the extension service, steps a business can take to improve environmental performance include conserving energy, using less hazardous products, purchasing products in bulk, reusing materials, training employees, conserving water, reducing packaging, solvent distillation, recycling and control inventory.

The program challenges businesses to keep improving environmental performance every year. Applications are judged on the business' commitment to waste reduction, environmental benefits achieved and waste prevented and innovation of waste reduction.

Other western Montana businesses that received the award last year include Jordt Construction of Bigfork, Sportsman Club of Columbia Falls, EQ Muffler Plus and Automotive Inc. of Kalispell, the Good Food Store and Missoula Textile Services, both of Missoula.

Reporter Jenny Johnson can be reached at 363-3300 or
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