FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Rob Anderson donned his gloves, boots and goggles before literally jumping into his work.

He was going dumpster diving.

As Fort Campbell's new Qualified Recycle Program manager, Anderson dedicates several hours of his work week to hands-on inspections of dumpsters across post in search of improperly disposed materials and equipment.

"On a daily basis I will go out and randomly select three to four trash containers to sample," he said in an email. "A 'dumpster dive' is exactly what it sounds like -- getting up close and personal with the 'trash.'"

In a government-issued white pickup truck he hauls all of his personal protective gear, as well as a ladder to step-up into the mound of debris in the trash bin.

The first recyclables Anderson tosses out are a-half-dozen burlap bags of rags and clothing. Several boxes follow -- as he points to a cardboard recycle container less than 10 feet away from the dumpster.

At the bottom of the heap is a recyclable cash crop of machinery equipment -- a steering arm and air brake chamber, worth about $50 each -- and a box of unused nuts and bolts.

After sorting the items, Anderson searches for someone in the offices nearby. He wants to return the recyclable items and to educate them about the proper disposal of trash and recyclables.

"We tell the Soldiers [and individuals] when they come looking for help or if we find something they've done wrong -- we're not here to get anybody in trouble," Anderson said. "We are here to correct the action -- get everyone going in the same direction -- so everything is good and safe and we're doing what we should be as far as the Army's policies."

Prevent, reduce, conserve

The Qualified Recycle Program collects and sells qualified or authorized scrap materials and retains the sales proceeds for on-post projects and improvements. The program, which is part of the installation's integrated waste management program, adheres to Department of Defense requirements.

"There's not an office, unit, agency, household or person on Fort Campbell that is exempt from the need for recycling. In fact, it's required in some cases," said Garrison Commander Col. David "Buck" Dellinger. "The 'green' benefits alone are incredibly important and should be pretty obvious. Preserving our environment is a responsibility and our program supports this effort in making Fort Campbell a world-class Army home."

The main purpose of QRP is to prevent the pollution, reduce the waste and conserve natural resources.

To prevent pollution, Fort Campbell Soldiers, employees and residents need to properly handle, separate and dispose of trash and recyclables, Anderson said.

The installation provides three locations that collect recyclables: the Recycling Convenience Center at Airborne Street and A Shau Valley Road; the Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services -- Campbell at Fifth Street and Oregon Avenue; and the Pollution Prevention Operation Center at Second Street and Wickham Avenue.

"They can pretty much take any material utilized on Fort Campbell [to the Convenience Center], with the exception of hazardous waste," he said. "When you get into hazardous [waste], then you've got the PPOC and they can handle everything else."

Military units, offices and departments on post are required to recycle newspapers and white paper, as well as cardboard. Cardboard containers along with 96-gallon mixed paper containers are provided for each building on the installation.

"We do have pickup at the offices and the units. Once every two weeks the truck comes by," Anderson said.

Anderson encourages people to recycle aluminum cans and plastic, as well.

"We'll provide them with containers if they want to collect plastic bottles or aluminum cans in the barracks or at the motor pools," he said. "But it would be their responsibility to take them over to the Convenience Center to recycle them because at the present time we don't have a service to come and pick those up."

To reduce the waste on post, Anderson said a good place to start is recycling. Participating in recycling programs and using the correct recycle containers are necessary for improvements on the installation, he said.

"Remove the recyclables from the waste stream," he said. "At Fort Campbell, we try to provide that [option] with all the containers at the Convenience Center to put your recyclables in, along with unit pickup. Also, in the housing area, they've got a commingle recycle container that they can put all their recyclables in, with the exception of glass bottles."

If trash is disposed of in these containers, contamination occurs and any recyclables will be considered trash. Fees are then charged accordingly.

Fort Campbell's Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division reported that the post diverted 8,800 tons of recyclables from the landfill in 2012, according to a January article in the Courier. This amount includes 1,800 tons of cardboard, 1,300 tons of metal, 450 tons of paper, 400 tons of yard waste, 20 tons of glass, 15 tons of plastic and more.

By FY 2015, the goal of the Department of the Army is to reach a 50 percent diversion rate, Anderson said.

"That means half of our trash coming out of here needs to be leaving here as a recyclable and not trash," he said.

He said the military units and offices on post are doing fairly well in the recycling effort.

"We're just a little bit above 40 percent and we have just a few more years and we've got to hit that magical 50 percent mark," he said. "We're on the right track there."

Also, Anderson suggests that "buying things a little bit smarter" may help to reduce installation waste.

"If I can buy something that's a large quantity of items versus a whole bunch of small packages, that's also another way to reduce [waste]," he said.

Finally, QRP focuses on conserving natural resources by encouraging people to use only what is needed.

From cardboard boxes to butter tubs, "you can always reuse things," Anderson said. "The wear-out point of things isn't always the first go-around anyway … You're limited by just your imagination."

Projects and improvements

In addition to diverting waste from disposal facilities, installations [that recycle] save landfill disposal costs and use the proceeds to fund various programs and local project costs, according to the DoD Environment, Safety and Occupational Health Network and Information Exchange.

Fort Campbell's QRP can earn up to $2 million annually through the installation's recycling program, Anderson said. These funds are returned to the command to support projects and programs that support the Fort Campbell community.

QRP money has recently been used for many different projects, including buying eco-friendly buses for the installation's School Age Services Program, constructing a new parking lot at Cole Park Commons and adding hard stand restrooms along the Cole Park Golf Course. Future QRP-funded projects include remodeling the floor at The Zone entertainment and recreation facility on Indiana Avenue and rebuilding the obstacles and cover at the paintball facility.

QRP projects are nominated by the unit chains of command and other stakeholders on post. The projects are approved by a board of senior leaders. Community participation in this process is welcome.

Currently, Fort Campbell has a partnership with Bi-County Solid Waste of Montgomery County to receive and process the recyclables.

"They process it. Take out overhead charges … [and then] they cut a check to Fort Campbell's QRP," Anderson said. "Anything on the recycle side that they sell, then that money comes back to Fort Campbell and put into programs to help the Soldiers, their Family members, the military community here."

Dellinger said recycling is an opportunity that reaps benefits for everyone.

"Living these days in a fiscally-challenging environment with limiting budgetary restrictions also requires us to be frugal in ways people generally overlook," he said. "Recycling can both save money and pay dividends. It makes all the sense in the world to exercise this opportunity, yet it's ignored too often, as confirmed by Rob Anderson's efforts. My challenge to everyone is to do their part in achieving our recycling goals. It's the right thing to do."

Editor's note: This is the first article in a series on recycling at Fort Campbell.