FORT HOOD, Texas (Oct. 24, 2013) -- Fort Hood, one of the largest military installations in the world, is home to a major sustainability program to help the U.S. Army reduce the amount of waste generated, maximize recycling and ultimately reach zero landfill by the year 2020.
Fort Hood was selected as one of seven Army installations to pilot the Net Zero Waste program. Since the program was implemented in 2011, Fort Hood has seen a 20 percent reduction in the amount of waste entering the landfill. This environmental success has been a collaborative community effort of Soldiers, Families, civilians and contractors working together to make Fort Hood greener. Michael Bush, Fort Hood's recycling operations manager, is a key player in the program's accomplishments.
An advocate for recycling since his days collecting aluminum cans and glass bottles in junior high school, Bush has a passion for recycling. Today, Fort Hood is recycling a lot of materials and products that many people haven't thought to recycle.
"We've learned that just about everything can be recycled -- metal, cardboard, paper, aluminum cans, and all varieties of plastic," said Brian Dosa, Fort Hood director of public works. "If we bring it to Michael Bush, he can recycle it."
But Bush brings more than a passion to his job. He brings industry insight based on his experience selling recycled plastic in Asia. Under his leadership, Fort Hood has implemented an innovative approach for recycling all forms of plastic, including plastic bags and Styrofoam.
"The technology to recycle Styrofoam is nothing new," Bush said. "The challenge is getting the word out that certain forms of Styrofoam can be recycled." The largest buyer of recycled Styrofoam melts the product down to manufacture plastic photo frames.
Bush became Fort Hood's recycling operations manager in October 2012, and since then, the Fort Hood Recycle Center has become more efficient at separating waste materials depending on the product and end user. Out of the nearly 800 tons of material the center receives each month, Fort Hood is able to sell 80 percent to 90 percent to their markets. This fiscal year, the Recycle Center has processed 7,260 tons of recyclables, generating $1.314 million.
However, Bush is always looking for innovative recycling ideas, and often incorporates ideas from Soldiers. According to Bush, Soldiers are stationed in different parts of the country and the world, and often bring back ideas on the materials they have seen being recycled.
He also praised Soldiers and their Families for the way they embrace environmental efforts.
"They really care about the environment, Fort Hood and our mission," Bush said. "They realize they can save resources and save our landfill space by bringing products that can be processed and sold for a profit that returns money to the Families and Soldiers who live at Fort Hood."
According to Maj. Charles Kean, brigade executive officer of the 41st Fires Brigade, it takes a top-down and bottom-up approach for this program to be successful.
"If commanders are talking about this at the brigade, battalion, and company levels, then it translates," Kean said. "If Soldiers are hearing it all the time, it's just part of what they do. Once Soldiers develop the ownership, then they come up with innovative solutions to change standard operations and help us all become better stewards."
Bush couldn't agree more, and hopes to see these efforts become a way of life at Fort Hood.