FORT HOOD, Texas, May 31, 2011 -- In late April, the Army announced the installations selected to take part in the energy-conserving “Net Zero” pilot program, pledging to only use as much energy as they create by 2020. The Army initiative focuses on three conservation areas: energy, water and waste. Fort Hood, Texas, was one of six installations selected by the Army for the Net Zero-Waste program.
More than 100 installations from around the world self-nominated to participate in the pilot, according to Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.
“It’s an honor to be selected as a Net Zero-Waste installation,” said Col. Mark Freitag, Fort Hood’s U.S. Army Garrison commander. “Such a selection confirms that the Army fully recognizes the great work that has already been done with recycling on the installation and affirms that the Army sees potential in our ability to achieve Net Zero-Waste by 2020.”
“What that means is, by 2020, we’ve set a goal to put nothing in the landfill,” said Brian Dosa, director of Fort Hood’s Directorate of Public Works. “We have our own landfill at Fort Hood. We’ve got 80-100 tons of trash going to the landfill every (work) day.”
The components of Net Zero solid waste start with reducing the amount of waste generated, re-purposing it, maximizing recycling, reclaiming recyclable and compostable materials and generating energy as a by-product of waste reduction, according to the Army Energy Program.
Reaching the program goal, no longer using landfills to dispose of Fort Hood’s garbage by the 2020 target date, is a major undertaking, said Jaycee Turnquist, Fort Hood Recycle Center business manager. He noted that in fiscal year 2010 more than 25,000 tons of solid waste ended up in the Fort Hood landfill.
“About 50 percent of what goes directly to our landfill is still recyclable,” he said.
“So much of what we use, we don’t fully consume,” Freitag said. “That turns into garbage and gets dumped in our landfill. We’ve got to turn that around.”
Educating installation organizations and the Fort Hood community, as a whole, about not only the benefits, but the need to recycle is important, Turnquist said.
“People need to know those dark brown dumpsters are the enemy,” Turnquist said, referring to bulk trash receptacles located throughout the installation. “If trash goes into those dumpsters, it goes straight to the landfill.”
“We’ve got one of the Army’s best recycle programs right here at Fort Hood,” Dosa said. “In fact, last year we diverted 41 percent of our solid waste. The majority of that went to recycling and some went to compost.”
Dosa said Fort Hood’s 41 percent diversion rate exceeded the Department of Defense goal (of 40 percent) for the year, but that DoD’s goal increased by two percent each year, up to the 50 percent rate.
“We think we can get beyond 50 percent diversion, in terms of recycling,” he said. “How high can we get? I don’t know, but I know we can go a lot higher.”
Besides meeting DoD goals and helping the installation become more environmentally friendly, the Fort Hood Recycle Program directly benefits many quality of life initiatives on the installation, as well.
“It looks like we’re going to put about $350,000 back into Fort Hood,” Turnquist said, referring to the fiscal year 2012 budget. Those funds help pay for many morale, welfare and recreation activities, he added, the largest of which is the annual fireworks display at Fort Hood’s Freedom Fest each July 4.
One way to improving on an already successful program is to reduce the amount of solid waste coming into the installation to begin with, Turnquist said.
“We’re going to concentrate on how we buy material,” he explained. “We’ve got to reduce the overall abundance of material bought.”
He said another area for improvement is finding more ways to repurpose materials, such as what the installation already does by reusing wooden pallets.
A key to future recycling success, Turnquist said, is getting command emphasis on the program, and the direct involvement of senior leaders and noncommissioned officers.
“That’s the biggest chunk of it, right there,” he said, “energizing the noncommissioned officers and officers on Fort Hood and showing them the benefit (of the program). The more we can collect, the more money we’ll generate, and we can put more money back into Fort Hood.”
“At the end of the day, you can only divert and recycle so much,” Dosa said. That’s where waste-energy technology comes in, he said, bridging the gap from diversion and recycling to achieve the Net Zero goal.
“We’re in the exploratory process,” Dosa said, regarding technology available today to turn excess waste into energy.
“The idea of turning waste to energy really excites me because it’s not science fiction. We can do this,” Freitag said of the initiative. “We just need to commit to it and gain necessary funding to test and hopefully implement (it).”
Whether it’s incinerating solid waste to create electricity or some other option, Dosa said waste energy is the long-term solution to achieving Net Zero. In the meantime, he said, DPW will continue to educate the Fort Hood community on the merits of recycling and repurposing its solid waste.
“We will not be successful without everyone’s support,” he said. “This isn’t just a DPW program. It has to be an installation-wide effort.”
(Christine Luciano, DPW Environment Outreach coordinator, contributed to this article.)