FORT LEE, Va. (April 28, 2016) -- Garrison leaders and members of the Fort Lee community recognized the value of the recycle program here during the Recycling Center grand reopening ceremony April 21.

Col. Paul K. Brooks, garrison commander; Melissa Magowan, deputy to the commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Clarence Richardson, garrison CSM; Gregory Williams, director of Public Works; and Jeff Kraus, vice president, Container First Services, the installation's waste and recycling vender, were among the participants of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"This event is called a grand reopening because the recycle center was originally established at this location during our BRAC build in 2008," said Williams. "Since then, we've changed our recycle contractor and today's event highlights our partnership with (Container First Services). It also draws attention to the senior commander's and garrison's emphasis on a stronger recycling program."

The effort is essential to reach Fort Lee's goal for the Army's Net Zero Zero waste program.

"Net Zero is a holistic strategy for managing existing energy, water and solid waste programs through a reduction in the overall consumption of resources to an effective rate of net zero," said Williams. "Today's event highlights an effort for us to be a net zero waste installation by fiscal 2030, which means by that year, we will be sending zero or very little trash to the landfill."

During his remarks, Brooks said he was pleasantly surprised at the turnout for the event.

"I think it shows this installation's commitment to what we are trying to do here," he said. "This re-opening recognizes the direction we are trying to move toward in the Army. It all fits in with what we are trying to do within the Department of Defense, the Army and here at Fort Lee with respect to reducing waste, water consumption and energy consumption."

Kraus said CFS said is excited to be part of the installation's recycling program.

"We have worked very hard to help the installation do what it needs to do as far as recycling is concerned; eliminating waste as much as we can and doing our part in helping," he said. "People ask why a waste company wants to get involved in recycling -- because it's the right thing to do."

The grand reopening plays a part in educating the public about the center, said Kraus. He asked the audience if they were aware of the center before the grand reopening, and after most of the attendees said they did know about it, he noted they are among the minority on the installation.

"We did a program at the Commissary a few months ago to increase awareness about the recycling opportunities available here," he said. "We asked people if they knew where the recycle center was, and overwhelmingly, they had no idea. Recycling is all about education and keeping everyone involved."

While there's room for improvement, Kraus said CFS and the installation have made strides in the past few years. In March 2014, the installation recycled 90 tons of cardboard and paper. In March 2016, 132 tons of cardboard and 30 tons of paper were recycled. In 2014, Fort Lee recycled 12 tons of metal and in March 2016, it recycled 74 tons.

"Those numbers highlight why it's so important to improve on our recycling numbers and work on our Army net zero goal," added Brooks. "It's a mindset. That's where the fight is; people are going to embrace it or they're not. That's why we require leadership and emphasis on this. If we can't change people's minds about recycling -- especially the leadership -- then we won't be able to reach our goals."