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August 2007

Fort Lewis on the way to zero net waste generation

The pollution prevention team at Fort Lewis, Washington diverted more than 725 tons of organic material and 1,400 tons of waste wood from its solid waste stream and avoided $174,000 in disposal costs by reusing lumber and other resources from building deconstruction.

These gains in Fort Lewis’ model sustainable waste management program have been realized as the result of its first phase (13 buildings) of the north Fort Lewis military construction redevelopment, part of which required removing 100 to 200 World War II-era wood-framed buildings. Before a single building was touched, Fort Lewis and its partner, the Seattle District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, held an “alternatives to demolition” workshop to facilitate communication between contractors and promote reuse of building materials. This, combined with other aggressive material recovery initiatives, resulted in 100 percent diversion of all non-hazardous solid waste for the inaugural project.

“‘Landfill’ is one of our least favorite words around here,” said Ken Smith, Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) program manager. “We’re determined to meet zero net waste by 2025.”

It seems that not even lead based paint-coated building materials will keep Fort Lewis from its goal. The installation pollution prevention team was the first to test and demonstrate a new technology to salvage wood coated with lead-based paint. With successful removal of the lead from the wood, the team was able to make the wood available to local markets for reuse and avoid depositing the debris in a hazardous waste landfill.

Building materials that can’t be reused or recovered at Fort Lewis are recycled to the greatest extent possible. In fiscal year 2006, more than 9,000 tons of asphalt and concrete from construction and demolition projects were recycled through a natural aggregate replacement project that ground the materials up and used them in other ways across the installation. Fort Lewis also used 5,000 tons of recycled concrete for projects such as road restoration, repair and access to the timber sales area, and road maintenance. In 2006 alone, recycling efforts avoided more than $80,000 in disposal costs and $70,000 in procurement costs for new materials.

Fort Lewis’s environmental sustainability initiatives are among the best established in the Army. Fort Lewis also has eight other goals for 2025, including reducing air emissions by 85 percent, generating all energy used on post from renewable sources and reducing potable water consumption by 75 percent.