Green Polk programs aim to save green for Army
February 27, 2012
FORT POLK, La. -- With the urgency to go green and reuse, repurpose or recycle items to provide energy efficiency for the future of the United States, the Army is continuing its green mission across a number of post agencies.
Did you know that by replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, you save enough energy to surf the web for 214 hours? If 1,000 people join you, you would save enough energy to power a hospital for three days. If you lower your thermostat by one degree in the winter, you would save enough energy to watch 646 DVDs. Add 1,000 people doing the same thing and you could power 85,220 office computers for one year.
While these are simple changes you can make in your home, Fort Polk agencies have their own programs and aim to reach the same goal -- sustainability. Here is what Fort Polk agencies are doing to focus on recycling and energy reduction:
QRP and white paper recycling pilot
To reach sustainability, the Fort Polk Qualified Recycling Program started a white paper recycling pilot program. "The white paper recycling program is a step toward Net Zero (achieving zero waste leaving Fort Polk to go to a landfill). To achieve that goal, we need to develop processes and work with established markets available for each recyclable commodity. That's why the white paper pilot project was initiated. The white paper demand is high in our area," said Philip St. Romain, Chief of the Fort Polk Environmental Compliance Branch.
The collection process for the white paper program is being worked to open the program to the entire installation, rather than only the pilot currently in place. The pilot pitted Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital and the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk headquarters, bldg 350, against both North and South Polk elementary schools.
"The pilot program is ongoing. We have learned a lot about doing it practically, at low cost, and how to properly collect the white paper and process it for resale. The elementary schools are leading the way. It's amazing how enthusiastic the children are," said Dr. Charles Stagg, the Chief of Environmental and Natural Resources Management Division, Directorate of Public Works.
"We needed to get a feel for the volume we gather here on post," said Tim Fitzgerald, the QRP manager, which collects and bales the paper to be shipped to the recycling facility located in bldg 1455.
Over the last three months, with only a limited group of participants, QRP gathered more than 10,000 pounds of white paper, St. Romain said. It is estimated that with full participation on the installation, that number could grow to 800,000 pounds per year. This could create a savings of more than $35,000 by diverting tonnage from the landfill. With the current market prices, it may bring up to $120,000 to the installation's QRP, St. Romain said. The money then goes toward pollution prevention initiatives and community projects.
Post-wide readiness is anticipated for May 2012. You should see blue collection bins appearing outside your building around that time, labeled, "white paper only."
"It only takes a few seconds to sort out white paper at your desk and help make Fort Polk the best recycling community in the Army," St. Romain said.
To help Fort Polk become a great recycling installation, the QRP looks at what items are entering the waste stream that can help the installation reach Net Zero, or zero waste going to a landfill, Fitzgerald said. The program looks at what recyclable commodities are most cost-beneficial.
The revenue QRP makes pays for the program, employees, equipment and other associative costs. The diversion of extra money is left up to a committee and the garrison commander, but "the intent is to support Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation functions, pollution prevention and energy awareness initiatives," Fitzgerald said. "In the past, a portion of our profits have gone to the FreedomFest fireworks program and restocking Catfish Cove. The more we grow, the more we can fund."
Since there is no government funding, the QRP sustains itself, but requires commodities to continue. "Right now, the solid waste contractor is handling (items) or turning around and selling (them). They're not only charging the government money to process it per ton, but they're selling it as well. None of that money comes back to the installation. If the QRP does it and we can get people on post to commit to recycling and separating (their items) at the units and other agencies, that's what our goal is," Fitzgerald said.
The QRP is looking to expand the recyclable commodities they process by accepting more than just white paper. They want to move into mixed paper and shredded paper, St. Romain said. "Mixed paper is anything from phone books to technical manuals. It's a combination of different colors and types of paper. If you take a bunch of stuff like (shredded and mixed paper), the tons we don't put in a landfill can save us costs. The QRP makes money off the paper and then the refuse contract doesn't have to take it, deliver it to a landfill or pay a tipping fee," he said.The Environmental Branch of Fort Polk has been recycling items for many years, even before Fort Polk was selected as a Net Zero waste installation. "It's just not as visible as it maybe should be," St. Romain said.
He compared recycling to cars in the 1970s. Some people remember a time before seatbelts. Nowadays, most people get in a car and the first thing they do is fasten their seatbelt. St. Romain believes the same paradigm shift needs to happen with recycling. "People at their desks need to automatically think, 'I'm going to put this paper in a recycling bin. I'm going to bring my lunch in a reusable container.' If everybody did things a bit differently, it would make a big difference," he said.
Fort Polk HAZMART
The Fort Polk HAZMART decided to do things differently, beginning in 1997. The HAZMART helps to perpetuate recycling by reusing items, but unlike the QRP, the HAZMART seeks to focus on cost savings and avoidance, rather than creating programs to generate revenue. The program controls hazardous waste through close tracking, properly storing the items and allowing Fort Polk agencies to use the items and return them to the facility. The close control ensures better use of good products and minimizes unnecessary waste disposal expenses.
"In 1993, we had more than 180 tons of waste per year leaving this installation, so the Army developed a plan to eliminate that waste, which is why we have the HAZMART. Nowadays, our waste is down to about 20 tons a year," said Steve Martinez, the HAZMART manager and senior hazardous waste technician.
The HAZMART provides a number of items to Fort Polk government agencies: Free issue products, material safety data sheets, product ordering, product pickup and delivery, repackaging, tracking, shelf life extensions, spill supplies, antifreeze and solvent recycling and hazardous waste storage and disposal.
Ordering a product is simple. "The only requirements to receive items from the HAZMART are a hand receipt, assumption of orders and a government or military vehicle for pick up," Martinez said.
Each item is received, barcoded and stored on shelves in the HAZMART facility, where the items are added to an internal and online catalog for other Fort Polk agencies to view. "If a Soldier needs paint, they can come down here and pick up what they need. When they're finished, if the product is still reusable, we can give that to someone else," Martinez said. This process helps reduce waste leaving the installation, especially when the items are reusable.
HAZMART uses the MICATS system -- Material Inventory Control and Tracking System -- which is unique to Fort Polk. This allows each item to be barcoded and keeps a running inventory of the items on hand. "This system is what we use to track all the hazardous material that enters and leaves Fort Polk. It fixes barcodes and tracks them for every little item out there," said Joe Chappell, HAZMART logistics technician.
In many cases, the shelf life of items is extended past the date on the product or orders from the manufacturer, Martinez said. "There's a system we have. We add shelf life to a product as long as the product appears good and still meets certain requirements. Then we can reissue it even longer and no one has to buy a new product."
When an item comes in, a barcode is affixed to it. "We had an organization that left Fort Polk, so they gave us three pallets of their oil. We will reissue that to units ordering the same type of oil. They may not get it in the five-gallon can they wanted it in, but they'll get quart sizes for free. They're saving money, the Army saves money and it doesn't generate waste," Martinez said.
Another way HAZMART helps save money is by preparing their own spill kits for units. Rather than buying "lab safety" kits for $600, HAZMART makes their own and sells them for $195, Martinez said. If a unit uses part of the spill kit and needs more items, they can buy what they need rather than a new kit.
One of the most unique items HAZMART recycles is parts-washing solvents and antifreeze, said Jeff Ross, a HAZMART contractor. "It's very unique to Fort Polk. Few other installations recycle their solvent. It's a huge cost savings," he said. When the solvent comes in to the HAZMART, it is cleaned and reused.
"We have a tech rep program. These guys are embedded with the units (under the Directorate of Public Works). They are the ones who get the solvent, bring it here to recycle and return clean solvent to the unit. The same happens for antifreeze. The unit doesn't have to do a thing," Ross said.
The solvent goes through a cleaning process in a distiller. "The used solvent goes in a tank and is cooked at about 450 degrees, which removes the impurities. The solvent becomes a vapor and gets sucked in through a tube. The vapor cools and becomes a liquid again and turns back into clean solvent. Everything that is bad stays in a drum, turning into waste. That waste is non-regulated waste, which is mixed with used oil. We make money off the non-regulated waste," Martinez said, Antifreeze is recycled through a reclaimer, which processes the product faster, easier and cost efficiently, Martinez said. "It takes the used antifreeze and separates the waste from the distilled water and ethylene glycol. That's what you need to make the good antifreeze," he said.
HAZMART recycles in other ways. Used oil cans are emptied, rinsed, crushed and taken to the QRP as scrap metal, which is sold to create revenue for the post. Printer cartridges that are no longer needed by units are held at the facility. If they remain unused, they are sent out for recycling.
The Fort Polk HAZMART has saved the post more than $6 million since October 1997.