FORT HOOD, Texas - Several organizations from Fort Hood won first-place awards in the 2013 Keep Texas Beautiful environmental awards last week.
In the military and civic organization program categories, the Fort Hood Department of Public Works Environmental team and the Fort Hood Recycle Center won first place, respectively. The Fort Hood Sentinel and DPW also received first place for the weekly newspaper category.
“It’s great to be a part of an installation that is one of the most recognized in terms of its environmental programs in the Army,” said Steve Burrow, chief of environmental programs, Fort Hood DPW. “The people and organizations are being awarded for what they do everyday around here.”
Keep Texas Beautiful is a Texas nonprofit organization that focuses on engaging and educating on litter prevention, beautification, solid waste reduction and community outreach and involvement.
Burrows spoke about some of the difficulties encountered after accepting the challenge of the Net Zero Waste program that had to be overcome for the Fort Hood DPW Environmental team and Recycling Center to win these awards.
“Nobody came down here and told us what to do to achieve the goal of a Net Zero Waste recycling program. We had to figure out how to get there,” Burrow said.
How they are getting there is by changing the culture of waste management and making people more aware of the impact they can have. Rufus Walker, assistant business manager, Fort Hood Recycle Center, said our best allies are the children.
“I love talking to the kids because they go home and they get on their parents about not recycling,” Walker said. “Eighty percent of what we throw away every day is recyclable.”
Walker has worked at the recycle center for 12 years and sees the changes. He compared it to the culture change that occurred when wearing seat belts became law. He also pointed out the need to preserve our natural resources.
“Every 10 tons of paper we process saves 10 fully grown trees. I’ve taught the kids that in the rainforest, as big as it is, they are cutting it down every day,” Walker said.
Equally important and just as difficult as preserving our natural resources is the need to educate people about recycling.
Michael Bush, operations manager, Fort Hood Recycle Center, said that part of the challenge they have encountered is educating people on just what is recyclable. Most people are familiar with the varying levels of plastic. Milk jugs are rated on one level while water bottles are rated on a different level. It can be confusing.
“Chances are if you have a plastic container of any kind, we can take it,” Bush said.
While the team is pleased with the awards, don’t expect them to be satisfied with an accolade – their goal is a Net Zero Waste disposal program.
“The Fort Hood installation processes 80- to 100-tons of waste a day, and we are recycling approximately 20 to 25 percent of that every day,” Burrow said. “We feel we could easily double what we recycle just by changing where we put our garbage and what we view is garbage. By putting the water bottles and cardboard in the appropriate bin.”