Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge Recycling Program, Fish and Wildlife Service, Kansas

Project Point of Contact

Pat Gonzales
(620) 392-5553 x110

Project Summary

Ron Thuma is the maintenance mechanic at Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), but his title and Position Description does little justice in portraying what he really does for this Refuge and the Fish and Wildlife Service.  There is no doubt that Ron’s maintenance duties keep him busy and he always maintains a full workload – yet in his busy schedule he always finds the time to identify and implement cost and energy savings as well as waste prevention and carbon reducing projects that help reduce our impact on our environment.  He strives for efficient design of projects so that they use fewer natural resources, consume less energy, and require less maintenance.

Project Description

Ron instituted a world class recycling program at Flint Hills NWR.  He implemented the recycling program years ago and continues to work to decrease the amount of solid waste leaving the Refuge for the landfill.  Ron has done this by energizing everyone here about recycling and making it easy to recycle by providing recycle bins in strategic locations throughout the headquarters officers, common areas, maintenance shops, and other areas. Ron has ensured that no employee, volunteer, or visitor is ever very far from a recycling opportunity.  Each week the bins are collected and consolidated for transportation to the Lyon County Recycling Center.
Ron takes careful inventory of each load of recyclable material prior to it being transported for recycling. He also records the amount of solid waste leaving the Refuge.  His efforts have resulted in over 80% of the solid waste stream being recycled. Ron realized long ago that it would take an effort by every employee at the Refuge to achieve this type of success, he keeps us all motivated to recycle in many ways – one is to use these tracking numbers.


Ron’s recycling efforts do not stop at paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, plastic, and dry cell batteries.  His mechanic work requires changing engine oil, hydraulic fluids, antifreeze, and other potentially recyclable materials.  Ron tests and treats antifreeze rather than replacing it.  He uses re-refined oil purchased through the Defense Logistics Agency closed loop program so that all used oil on the Refuge is recycled.  He also recycles old vehicle batteries and scrap metal.

Ron’s expertise in maintenance helps to ensure that the Refuge facilities are well maintained, safe, and operational.  His recycling efforts are ever present – Ron ensures that compact fluorescent light bulbs are used whenever possible, uses only low mercury fluorescent light bulbs, puts perimeter and security lighting on timers or equips them with motion sensors so that they only come on when needed.  As part of this he recycles our used bulbs and tubes.


Youth Stewardship

Ron also works with our Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) enrollees, teaching them how to properly separate recyclables and instilling in them the sense of responsibility for their actions, as it applies to conservation and recycling, and making them realize that they can make a difference.  The YCC enrollees, under Ron’s guidance, collect litter around the Refuge for recycling and gather the recycle bins from around the Refuge to separate for recycling.  Because of his work, the Station received an award from the mayor of Emporia, Kansas (See attachment).  But probably more important, these young people have learned a valuable and life long lesson in conservation and recycling that they one day will pass on.

Ron’s dedication to duty, this Refuge, and his personal responsibility to our environment are exceptional examples of what one person can accomplish. 


U.S. Department of the Interior

Greening of the Interior