FORT POLK, La. — The Fort Polk Net Zero Waste Program has set the standard for protecting the environment by earning Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) award in the category of pollution prevention for 2018.

LDEQ started the pollution prevention award in 1995 to promote environmental excellence through pollution prevention and other environmentally friendly practices including source reduction and reuse, recycling/composting, energy recovery, treatment and disposal.

Participants use the waste management hierarchy embraced by the Environmental Protection Agency to help their organizations reach their waste reduction goals. Organizations that have Louisiana’s environmental well being considered in their daily practices are encouraged to become members of the program.

The LDEQ Environmental Leadership Program is divided into five categories: Businesses, federal entities, municipalities, non-governmental organizations, and schools and universities. Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk joins the list of members in the program under federal entities.

The Fort Polk NZW Program was nominated and won the ELP award in March under the pollution prevention category for its efforts to reduce waste and increase diversion of waste to area landfills. The NZW program manager, Terrill Turner, accepted the award for the installation in Baton Rouge on April 10. Since the inception of the Fort Polk Net Zero Waste Program in 2011, the installation has diverted 51.5 percent of its waste to area landfills, surpassing the Department of Defense diversion goal for installations of 50 percent. Furthermore, hazardous material generation has declined tremendously from 184 tons in 1992 to 10.45 tons in 2018 for an overall decrease of 94 percent.

The NZW team at Fort Polk performs recycling assessments and outreach/training to organizations across the installation. In 2017, the team performed 279 assessments at Fort Polk administrative offices to ensure recycling is taking place across the installation, and that opportunities for waste diversion are explored and solutions implemented. The team also reached 5,086 individuals through presentations at briefs/training and other events. The NZW team works with organizations to remedy waste and implement long-lasting solutions to combat new and recurring waste issues.

Joint efforts of the Fort Polk HAZMART, environmental compliance officers and environmental customer service technicians on the installation are a driving force behind Fort Polk’s strides in reaching its hazardous waste generation goals. The EPA commended Fort Polk for its efforts in 2012 following a hazardous waste inspection by their organizations stating that, “your program is a model for other federal facilities during our conference this year and our hope is that they will follow the fine example set by Fort Polk.” In 2017, a follow up unannounced hazardous waste inspection by the LDEQ found that the installation had been continuing their quest for environmental stewardship; no negative findings were noted.

The Qualified Recycling Program (QRP) also played a necessary role in increasing diversion rates on the installation. In 2017 the QRP processed more than 226,764 pounds of recyclables consisting of a combination of: No. 1 plastics, aluminum cans, white copy paper, mixed paper, spent brass casings and scrap metal. The program also realized energy recovery value by recycling 43,866 gallons of used motor and cooking oil.

A joint effort between the QRP and Fort Polk’s Environmental Conservation Branch culminated in 2,750 pounds of wood recycled from Christmas trees. The trees were collected and strategically placed in nearby ponds to improve wildlife habitats. Funds acquired from the sale of the commodities generated by the QRP go back into sustaining QRP operations as well as many Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities for the Fort Polk community.

The efforts of the NZW Team, the HAZMART, environmental compliance officers and environmental customer service technicians, and the QRP would be fruitless without the participation of Fort Polk community members. Each organization and individual on the installation generates waste. From office work to food services; helicopter flight mechanics to military readiness commands; each entity has their own unique processes and inherent waste streams resulting from those processes. Recognizing wastes generated during these processes is the first step in remedying waste; the next step relies on the organization and the individual.

Cutline: From left to right: Col. Jarret Thomas II, Fort Polk garrison commander, Terrill Turner, installation recycling program manager, Chuck Brown, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality secretary, and Gregory Prudhomme, Fort Polk Directorate of Public Works, received the LDEQ Environmental Leadership Program award in Baton Rouge April 10.