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Striving for Zero Waste


March 02, 2016   By Susan Mungo in Environmental Stewardship

Santee Cooper fly ash was used in the construction of the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston. (Photo by Jim Huff/Santee Cooper)

I love to watch DIY shows that repurpose old, broken, or otherwise unusable items into something that looks so cool everybody wants one. The experts always amaze me with their creativity. They make me believe that turning some old, discarded item into a work of art, or at least into something useful, takes just a little effort and some imagination. They don't waste or throw away anything, not even an old wooden pallet.

At Santee Cooper, we try to put some of those same principles and practices to work. Our goal is to be a zero-waste business, and we practice single-stream recycling at all of our facilities to help us get there. Single-stream recycling is a system where all recyclables (i.e. newspaper, cardboard, plastic, aluminum, junk mail, etc.) are placed in a single bin or cart for recycling.

We also have two recycling facilities where used utility poles, wire, scrap metal, insulators, light fixtures and other materials are examined, refurbished and placed back in the system or sold for scrap. Certain items, such as refurbished lights, are made available for purchase to the public. Items like retired fleet vehicles or heavy equipment and office furniture are sold through our Investment Recovery department, which has a process that allows the public to bid on and purchase these materials.

Through these efforts, Santee Cooper saved more than $1.2 million in 2015 and also reduced the amount of materials that would have been discarded.

But we don't stop there. We also recycle combustion byproducts like gypsum and ash. Most of these products are sold to customers who use it to make wallboard, concrete and other cement-based products. One great example is the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston, which used fly ash to reinforce the concrete — a process that is beneficial, and often necessary, for bridges and dams.

For more than 25 years, we have also been recycling and repurposing oil through our Give Oil For Energy Recovery, or GOFER, program. It's the state's largest used-oil collection program for DIYers and includes more than 450 collection sites.

At Santee Cooper, we will continue to find creative ways to reduce our waste and recycle old and leftover materials and byproducts as we strive to create a more sustainable future.