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Fall 2016


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Recycle Specialist Dremad Cooper sorts through scrap metal at investment recovery.

One Man's Trash

An old adage states, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In this day of reduce-reuse-recycle, that adage is more appropriate than ever. At Santee Cooper, reducing our use, reusing what we already have and recycling what we cannot use is an important endeavor.

Santee Cooper regularly assesses what we use and how we can reduce our use of everything from supplies to electricity. However, it may be surprising to some that Santee Cooper reuses much of what it already has and also surprising just how many tons of trash get recycled.

Reusing: Turning Trash Back into Treasure
Although it has an unassuming name, the after market materials services department at Santee Cooper is a notable asset. It is comprised of investment recovery and asset recovery. Reusing materials is a goal or even second nature for some individuals; for Santee Cooper, it’s a necessity that creates a net positive for the company.

“When something is broken, obsolete or when a group within Santee Cooper no longer has a use for it, it comes to us,” said Supervisor of After Market Materials Services Mark Shepherd. “Together, we are responsible for the disposal of all Santee Cooper excess and obsolete assets. We are constantly researching and establishing markets to make sure our assets are disposed of or reused in a way that both maximizes Santee Cooper’s return on investment and is in line with our goal to be good environmental stewards.”

Johnny Davenport refurbishes Heritage outdoor lights so they can be reused.

After market materials services has an admirable mission statement that dovetails well into Santee Cooper’s mission to be the leading resource for improving the lives of South Carolinians. The department is tasked with disposing of assets in a manner that takes advantage of both their utilization and Santee Cooper’s return on investment. It is based on sound, ethical investment recovery business practices and is compliant with all legal, statutory and regulatory requirements. It also provides optimal customer service to clients and customers.

Keep in mind, excess and obsolete assets include almost everything: furniture, tools, heavy equipment, poles, street lighting and even office trash. All assets are reviewed to determine if they can be repurposed within the company. Some items need to be recycled, while others can be refurbished, reused or sold. That has a bigger, more positive impact. Instead of an old item taking up space in a landfill or gobbling up resources to break it down to components, it can be reused and brought back to life.

That’s where Santee Cooper’s asset recovery team fits in. One example of how they do that is visible at each of Santee Cooper’s line technician crew quarters.

“We provide containers at each of the line crew quarters. Once crews separate the recovered material into four containers, we bring them to Asset Recovery, weigh them and sort out the components,” explained Recycle Specialist Chris Faircloth. “We carefully sort the con-tents into categories and then prepare them for reuse.”

Left: Mark Shepherd, after market material services supervisor, and Ginny Cox, investment recovery agent, are responsible for disposal of assets that both maximizes Santee Cooper’s return on investment and is in-line with its environmental goals at investment recovery. Right: Recycle Specialist Chris Faircloth holds a refurbished insulator, which will be tested and put back to work.

Through a multi-staged process, items that have been discarded by line crews are collected, sorted, cleaned, refurbished and returned to stock. This allows Santee Cooper to avoid the cost of having to purchase additional stock. And after minimal investment, those items are put back to use.

“We also created a book that focuses on the items that we refurbish,” Faircloth added. “Along with ‘before’ and ‘after’ images of each refurbished item, we record the time invested and process cost, from its collection to its return to stock, to restore the item. We also list the savings associated with the process. On average, each year we return over $80,000 worth of items back to stock, and that saves money for Santee Cooper and ultimately for our customers.”

These employees also help maximize Santee Cooper’s return on investment through the collection and disbursement of various grades of cable and wire from throughout Santee Cooper’s service areas. Some of these items can be used again at Santee Cooper, others are sold or recycled. They’ve even developed a special catalog to help guide the process.

Recycle Specialist Dremad Cooper tests a refurbished outdoor light for resale.

Investment Recovery Agent III George Rheubottom said the catalog helps both line crews and vendors understand the various grades of metals and how they are grouped, so they can be sold to contract holders for their use or for them to be recycled.

“Being able to certify that the items in the container meet certain specifications, for instance, that there’s no aluminum mixed in with the copper, can make a big difference in the price we can command for our metals,” said Rheubottom, a 20-year veteran of the department.

To the layman, it’s almost magic. With some effort and know-how, employees can dramatically increase the value of the material.

For instance, coated copper wire enters the processing center as scrap coated copper. Asset recovery cuts the wire into 12-inch lengths and runs them through a stripper to remove the rubber coating. The end result is “copper bright wire,” which has a value that’s more than twice the coated copper wire. Even better, nothing is wasted. The leftover coating ends up being recycled into mulch.

Clockwise from left: Sam Carlucci strips the cable of its plastic casing; the stripped; copper bright wire begins as groups of copper cables encased in plastic coating; the stripped, finished wire will be worth more than twice the dollar amount of the original coated copper wire.

“Our collection and segregation efforts have allowed us to contribute over $300,000 annually to Santee Cooper’s bottom line,” Rheubottom said.

Asset recovery also serves Santee Cooper’s Myrtle Beach and Moncks Corner areas for servicing construction and debris containers. Through landfill avoidance and in conjunction with our recovery and refurbishment program, another $70,000 is saved annually.

Recycling: Just Toss It Baby
Not only do after marketing materials services employees make it possible to reuse assets internally or externally, they also administer Santee Cooper’s single stream recycling campaign. Investment recovery has been honored with a number of state, regional and national awards for their programs in solid waste management, single stream education and implementation, and recycling awareness.

The investment recovery video “Toss It Baby,” which can be found on the YouTube channel SanteeCooperTV, was created to promote single stream recycling. It was a hit with Santee Cooper employees and even has a cameo by Santee Cooper President and CEO Lonnie Carter. The video has been picked up and used throughout the United States to inform business and educational institutions on the ease of single stream recycling.

Our most commonly recycled items are paper, plastics and metal cans, all collected in single stream bins strategically placed throughout the company, which makes it easy for employees to recycle.

Santee Cooper strives to be a zero-waste business. Annually, Santee Cooper recycles nearly 2 billion pounds of paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, used electric poles, scrap metal, wires, batteries and other industrial materials, and combustion byproducts like gypsum and fly ash.

All in all it’s a group effort, one that shows how Santee Cooper makes sound business decisions that help us live up to our commitment to protect the environment. And that’s backed up by over $2.6 million dollars added to coffers in the last six years.

Everything can be reused. Here, colorful glass (top) is reused as ground covering, while the stripped plastic casings from copper bright wire often find a new home as mulch in raised beds like these below.