By Mrs. Michelle Kennedy (Drum)August 1, 2013
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Turning trash into cash can be a dirty job.
For the past several years, Fort Drum and installations across the Army have been trying to save money and produce less waste.
Five years ago, it was proposed that military installations practice a "net zero" approach to waste, including energy, water and garbage. The net zero concept implies that installations become sustainable and integrate plans that include reduction, repurposing, recycling and composting, energy recovery and disposal.
Fort Drum Directorate of Public Works professionals have been making improvements across post and spreading the word about new policies; however, ensuring recyclables make it to the appropriate container and not combined with regular trash at the single Soldier housing areas remained a problem, according to Jim Miller, PW's Environmental Division chief.
"A waste study found that 20 percent of our municipal solid waste were recyclable (items). That's a huge amount," Miller said. "A staggering amount of money can be saved (by recycling). It's more than just protecting the environment; it's an economic savings."
Currently, Fort Drum waste goes to a landfill in Rodman, which is about 30 miles from post, Miller said. The facility began flagging loads coming from Fort Drum for containing a lot of recyclable content.
From May to July, there were 42 failed inspections, and 10 dumpster suspensions were issued for unit trash and recycling area violations, Miller explained. Upon receiving a failed inspection, units are asked to provide corrective action plans. Suspensions require units to clean up and reorganize their own dumpster areas before trash and recyclables are picked up.
"Suspension is the last resort," Miller said.
Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, Fort Drum garrison commander, said units have to educate and raise awareness of the recycling issue from the brigade level down to the company level.
"This has to be an issue that is briefed at command and staff meetings," he said. "It needs the appropriate level of command emphasis."
The regional landfill charges Fort Drum for trash disposal. When recyclable items are thrown in the trash, Fort Drum has to pay for them, Rosenberg said.
The landfill management has the ability to refuse to take Fort Drum's garbage, which could potentially cause trash buildup. In the event the installation has to use a different landfill, it will cost more money to transport the waste to a facility farther away, Rosenberg added.
"This is so easy," Rosenberg said. "When you throw it in the garbage, we pay for it. When you recycle, that generates money. We can use that to support Soldiers.
"Not only are we spending more money than we have to, but we're losing money because we're not getting the credit for recycling," he added.
The recycling program provides roughly $250,000 a year to the Fort Drum's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program and now provides funds to a new recycling initiative that began in May.
In an attempt to further their outreach efforts, PW officials began a new program to increase recycling rates in barracks waste collection areas across Fort Drum.
Each month, each battalion's barracks recycling centers and dumpsters are audited and rated on whether items are sorted correctly. Categories of recyclable materials include paper, plastic, metal, glass, cardboard and alkaline batteries.
The barracks building with the most points receives a $1,000 incentive award that is issued to the battalion's unit fund. Buildings with dumpster violations are disqualified from that month's incentive award.
"We're going to continue to do this, so over the course of a year, we will have passed out $12,000. That is a pretty substantial incentive," Miller said.
Rosenberg and Command Sgt. Maj. Mark H. Oldroyd, garrison senior enlisted adviser, presented incentive awards to 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team for May, and 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team for June.
"We need support to get this done," Rosenberg said. "This goes directly into the unit fund to be spent on your Soldiers. The idea is, if you make (the award) enough money, people will want to do it. We will continue to raise the bar in recycling."
The Fort Drum Recycling Program also has a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FortDrumRecycles. The site will feature flyers and tips on how to recycle different items.
For more information about recycling requirements on post, visit www.FortDrumRecycles.com.