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NEWS | March 27, 2020

Twice the Life: Fort Buchanan Helps Repurpose Textiles and Increases Waste Diversion

By Ashley Bradford Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate

U.S. Army Garrison Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, is the only Federal military Installation on the island and in fact, the only military Installation in the Caribbean. Their unique location, coupled with a history of overcoming natural disasters in recent years, makes for a strong, tight-knit community that takes care of each other and their resources. The Fort Buchanan Directorate of Public Works (DPW) is always seeking new sustainable and resilient solutions to bolster their community and environmental stewardship. Their newest initiative, a textile collection program, is strengthening partnerships while diverting waste that would have been sent to landfills.

“When evaluating ways to increase recycling, we determined there was an opportunity already on the island we could potentially leverage to create a stream for clothing,” explained Osvaldo Fantauzzi, Fort Buchanan’s pollution prevention program manager. “We reached out to PR Textiles Recycling, LLC, and invited them to the Installation to learn more about their operations. The company has collection bins in-place at municipalities, school districts, non-profit and for-profit organizations, businesses and associations across Puerto Rico to collect clothes, shoes and other textiles. Any clothing donated in new condition is reused, while other material is shipped to the United States to manufacture rags with post-consumer recycled content.”   

After initiating meetings with PR Textiles and conducting research for post collections, Fort Buchanan entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the for-profit company in the spring of 2019. The MOU, drafted in its final form by Management Analyst Maria M. Martinez, outlines the program’s parameters with the Installation for the span of 36 months. PR Textiles provided four collection bins that were strategically placed in commercial, high-traffic areas near two main Installation entrances. This way, regardless of where entry is made onto Fort Buchanan, donations can be easily dropped off without having to drive to the other side of post. Additionally, there are no fees charged by PR Textiles as the company has a market for resale.

“It’s been a real great experience in terms of relationship,” shared Fantauzzi. “Partnering with PR Textiles enables us to easily provide a service for our Community to give back to others and reduce waste. Since the bins were placed on post in September 2019, we’ve collected and diverted 2.6 tons of textiles. Some of the items donated are brand new with the price tags still attached, so being able to pass them on to someone else is huge. And for the other items that can be processed and recycled, PR Textiles has the shipping and export resources that would otherwise be too costly for us to manage.”

Looking ahead, the Fort Buchanan DPW Environmental Team, under the leadership of Anibal Negron, hopes to increase textile collections while also finding more ways to recycle additional materials that pose a challenge on the island. “We have seen some interruption to textile collections with a recent earthquake and now the coronavirus disease,” cautioned Fantauzzi. “We’re hoping the disruptions will minimize later into the year so we can continue to serve the local community through the program and better project consistent waste diversion. We’re also hoping to pursue more ways to better recycle other streams like glass as it’s difficult to recycle here. Through all the challenges we may face, our DPW is strong and resilient. We remain committed to blending our Mission with taking care of each other and our resources.”