Often, recycling is considered one of the easiest ways to integrate sustainability into daily operations. The U.S. Army Reserve has been successful in implementing recycling programs at its Installations, Mission Support Command (MSC) and Regional Support Commands (RSCs). But, due to their geographical dispersion and unique needs, RSCs face a challenge: to capture the recycling efforts that happen at their sites every day, across the country. The Army Reserve Solid Waste Program is meeting those challenges to ensure that the Army Reserve will reach Federally mandated solid waste diversion goals.
Currently, the municipal solid waste (MSW) diversion rate for the Army Reserve is 37 percent, which is five percent greater than the MSW diversion rate for fiscal year 2014. So, even though there is still work to be done to reach the Federal goal of 50 percent diversion from landfills, the Army Reserve is charting progress that can be attributed to improvements in reporting.
Many Army Reserve sites have established successful recycling programs, but according to Solid Waste Program Coordinator Tyrone Cook, “the challenge has always been in capturing the diversion at the MSC and RSC level due to their unique organizational structures.” So, Cook and the Solid Waste Team sought solutions. They developed a Solid Waste Management and Recycling Profile Survey, which will be used to improve solid waste best management practices, identify areas within established programs that need improvement and identify additional diversion opportunities. In addition, the team added a solid waste management assessment to existing Comprehensive Energy and Water Evaluations to further identify diversion opportunities and program improvement areas, and they created a Solid Waste and Recycling Weight Estimation Tool and accompanying guidance to help sites more accurately report their diversion.
As a result, sites have markedly improved their diversion reporting in Solid Waste Annual Reporting on the Web (SWARWeb). SWARWeb is an online system for
tracking, analyzing and reporting information on the generation, recycling and disposal of non-hazardous solid waste at Department of Defense Installations. Army Reserve
Installations, the MSC and RSCs are capturing a more complete set of data for the diversion that is taking place throughout the enterprise. “We have improved processes that are helping to identify and include data that have been overlooked in the past,” Cook added. “Overall, Installations, the MSC and RSCs are prepared to increase their diversion reporting simply by capturing what is taking place within their fence lines and out in the field. We may find that we have already reached or exceeded the Federally mandated goals.”
As they ride the momentum of a notable increase in solid waste diversion, Cook and the Solid Waste Team realize that they cannot simply rest on that achievement. While they focus on capturing diversion at Army Reserve Centers, they also want to find ways to decrease or divert food waste from waste streams. They are also bolstering recycling education and awareness efforts. For instance, a paper reduction awareness campaign
began in April with goals of meeting Federal and Department of Defense paper reduction mandates, conserving resources, lowering operating costs, reducing waste and improving business efficiency for the Army Reserve. The recycling programs in the field are forging ahead, too, and continuing to support diversion efforts.
Whether it is reporting more of its diversion or recycling more of its waste, the Army Reserve is taking out the trash today so we have a more sustainable mission for the future.