The Fort Hood Recycle Center is steadily working to meet projected zero-waste goals while becoming as efficient as possible, said Mike Bush, center manager.
In fiscal year 2013, the center recycled 765 tons of material more than the pervious year, and new initiatives should keep that number climbing in 2014.
The post’s Directorate of Public Works has offered recycling for more than 20 years, but over the past few years, officials ramped up efforts as Fort Hood aims to be waste-free by 2020. To meet that goal, the Fort Hood center added Styrofoam No. 6 recycling and will soon offer computer hard drive shredding, Bush said.
“It’s probably the most valuable plastic,” he said of Styrofoam. “It’s 80 to 90 percent air, so (the machine) compresses it down and saves a lot of room in the landfill.”
To recycle it, the pieces of hard, inflexible Styrofoam are fed into a machine and melted into swirls, which are then sold to vendors. The material is most commonly used to make picture frames.
Over the past year, Fort Hood decreased the amount of trash going to the landfill by 647 tons, Bush said.
Officials also purchased a more powerful baler to more efficiently bale plastics, but it’s capable of handling aluminum cans and steel as well.
“This one baler can do the job of all three we have now,” Bush said, adding they hope to purchase more new equipment. “The end goal is to be more efficient.”
The Fort Hood Recycle Center generated about $1.4 million with Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service Sales assistance in 2013, Bush said.
That money is used to sustain the center, as well as pay for community events on post, such as the Fourth of July fireworks display.
The biggest effort in recycling is often educating the public and collecting material, said Jennifer Rawlings, sustainability coordinator with public works’ environmental division. With Fort Hood’s population constantly changing, education is always needed.
“That is one of the downsides, but hopefully we are creating a culture,” she said.
Education is needed in units, as well as in housing. “Our focus is on housing because they are the No. 1 producer of waste for the landfill,” Rawlings said. Military units come in second.
In housing, Rawlings developed specialize training for community life noncommissioned officers and block captains. Training events happen four times a year to try and catch the constant flow new residents and soldiers.
While Fort Hood made strides toward its overall net-zero goal, efforts fell short of the year-to-year goal. By the end of 2013, Fort Hood aimed to have a 50 percent diversion rate — meaning 50 percent of trash was not going into a landfill. Instead they reached 48 percent, Rawlings said.
Aside from housing, this year officials plan to push units to step up and recycle, reuse and repurpose more.
“A lot of it is just looking at purchasing,” Rawlings said.
Adding unit identification to recycle bins is another way to create friendly competition among soldiers to increase recycling, Bush said.
By the end of this year, the center should start seeing results from a food waste feasibility study, which is looking at composting and other options for food trash.
“We are doing site visits and understanding where food waste is generated at and what is the composition of it,” she said.
With this year’s diversion rate goal set at 55 percent, it will take every single one of these efforts to achieve success.