CHIEVRES, Belgium - The USAG Benelux has exceeded recycling goals set by both an executive order and the Department of Defense.
In 2007, then-President George W. Bush enacted E.O. 13423, requiring the Federal Government to strengthen its environmental, energy and transportation goals, stating that each agency should strive to recycle 35 percent of its solid waste by 2010.
In 2008, the Department of Defense upped that goal, requiring defense agencies to divert 40 percent of non-hazardous waste by 2010.
USAG Benelux met both of those goals years in advance, and the garrisons continue to improve on them.
In fiscal year 2009, USAG Schinnen's Sort Center handled more than 1.5 million pounds of refuse and waste products. Of that amount, more than 1.2 million pounds were recycled.
"That's an 81 percent recycle rate, which is pretty good for an installation the size of Schinnen," said Hans Verwasch, Schinnen's chief of Environmental Division.
According to Environmental Division calculations, this high percentage of recycling allows USAG Schinnen to save more than Ac'A!150,000 in waste disposal costs each year.
The Sort Center has maintained a recycling rate so high, in fact, that it put Schinnen among the top five for all of IMCOM-Europe for the last several years.
USAG Brussels and ChiAfA..vres Garrison had a combined diversion rate of 37 percent in fiscal year 2007, and they increased that amount by around 5 percent each year, reaching 47.6 percent in fiscal year 2009.
They disposed of 719 metric tons in fiscal year 2009, and they recycled 653 metric tons. The two garrisons reduced their non-separated and bulky trash by more than 200 tons in just one year, a savings of nearly Ac'A!20,000.
"It's good because we are still improving," said Bernardine Ghysselinckx, environmental protection specialist for the Benelux.
Roger Preciado, director of the USAG Brussels Directorate of Public Works, said that recycling is cheaper than disposing of trash.
"It's a cost-avoidance measure. It's cheaper than regular waste," he said.
ChiAfA..vres and Brussels pay an average of Ac'A!22 per cubic meter for non-separated waste and bulky items, whereas they only pay an average of Ac'A!8 for recyclable items. Additionally, some items like paper, cardboard, green waste and cooking grease don't cost the garrison at all because the contractor considers the waste a value.
"We even receive Ac'A!5 per ton of cardboard recycled on ChiAfA..vres," said Ghysselinckx, adding that cardboard makes up more than one-third of recycled items on ChiAfA..vres and Brussels.
Ghysselinckx attributes the overall recycling success to increased awareness and logistical changes.
"We have made hard efforts with the recycling center management. We have controlled better the opening hours. Also, we have moved some containers, which has reduced illegal dumping outside the recycling center," she said, adding that illegal dumping is also monitored and controlled in other locations on base.
By meeting and exceeding the required goals, consumers are saving the garrisons tens of thousands of euro, but Ghysselinckx said there is even more room for savings.
"The best way for saving money for the U.S. Army would be that everybody goes to the recycling center outside the base," she said.
All military and civilian personnel living in Belgium already pay to use the services off post through annual taxes. For those living in government quarters, the U.S. Army foots the bill. For those living in leased housing, the renters are required to pay the bill, which runs around Ac'A!60 per year. Those taxes cover the expenses of the local dump and the commune recycling centers.
When residents use the services on post, the U.S. Army (essentially U.S. taxpayers) have to pay to have the waste removed, which is money that could be spent on other community projects, and since off-post services are already paid for, it's money that is unnecessary to spend.
Sometimes people come on post to save money, so they don't have to buy the required trash and recycle bags. The cost of these bags pays for curbside pick-up service. The U.S. Army pays for and supplies the bags to those living in government quarters. Those living off-post can avoid the expense of the blue recyclable bags, as well, by simply sorting and dumping their recyclables at the commune recycling center.
"It's good to come to ChiAfA..vres Air Base to recycle. It's great, but we really want to encourage everyone to go to the community to recycle," said Ghysselinckx.
Ghysselinckx hopes the recycling rate continues to improve across the Benelux.
President Barack Obama signed E.O. 13514 in October, expanding the requirements of E.O. 13423. By the year 2015, the Benelux may be required to recycle 50 percent of non-hazardous solid waste, excluding construction and demolition debris.
The Department of Defense will submit a Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan to meet this objective by June of this year, which will trickle down to each garrison soon after.
USAG Schinnen already exceeds this goal, and if USAG Brussels and ChiAfA..vres continue their progressive trends, they could easily meet the goal four years early.
The Environmental Divisions are continuing awareness campaigns, and ChiAfA..vres has created a new cooperation with housing to educate newcomers. Additionally, the Benelux is enacting Lean Six Sigma measures and coordinating with on-post restaurants and shops to streamline future waste disposal even more.