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NEWS | June 30, 2020

Devens Reserve Forces Training Area strengthens environmental stewardship through Qualified Recycling Program

By Ashley Bradford Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate

What does it take to be the most capable, combat-ready reserve force? A focus on training to win the wars of tomorrow and a whole lot of brass to back it up. As a United States Army Reserve (USAR)- funded Installation that enables Total Force readiness through mission related training, Devens Reserve Forces Training Area (RFTA) has recycled over 49.5 tons of spent brass over the past three fiscal years. Now, the USAR-funded Installation is actively working to set up a Qualified Recycling Program (QRP) to not only recycle brass shells, but eventually gain proceeds that can be fed back into the Installation to support critical sustainability and community programs.

Department of Defense (DoD) and Army policies require all Installations to have or participate in a recycling program. A QRP is a special kind of recycling program that complies with specific statutory, regulatory and DoD requirements to collect and sell authorized recyclable scrap materials directly, retaining the sales proceeds for use as prescribed by law and regulations. Specifically, QRP proceeds cover solid waste management overhead including operations, maintenance and the purchase of necessary equipment. It can also be used to pay for required program training. Remaining funds, up to 50 percent of the balance, can be used by the Installation for pollution abatement, energy conservation and occupational safety and health activities. The Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) on post can also benefit as the remaining balance can be transferred to a non-appropriated account and be spent on MWR activities.

With QRP success at Fort Hunter Liggett, California and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, the Devens RFTA Directorate of Public Works (DPW) is actively striving to stand up a QRP as part of their Installation’s long-term strategic plan. Under the plan’s infrastructure line of effort and major objective of ensuring proactive and robust environmental stewardship, implementing a QRP is a short-term action that Devens RFTA hopes to have up and running in the next year.

“There are many implementation steps outlined in the Army’s QRP Handbook,” explained Anne MacMillan, who serves as an environmental support contractor for Devens RFTA DPW. “We’re following the prescribed process and recently two members of our team completed the Air Force Institute of Technology’s QRP Management course. Additionally, we’re awaiting the final results of a waste characterization study conducted over the last two years and we are working on our QRP business plan. Looking ahead, our immediate next steps include setting up the associated accounting program.”

As the implementation continues to take shape, the Devens RFTA DPW maintains momentum through frequent collaboration with the Army Reserve Solid Waste Program team, as well as their DPW counterparts at Fort McCoy for guidance and support. “Our most important piece of advice is that like any startup business, a QRP takes money to make money. A QRP may not be profitable during the first few years of operation,” shared Michael Miller, Chief of Water and Waste Branch at Fort McCoy’s DPW. “Profits are very market driven and while the value of recycling commodities has significantly decreased in the past few years, Fort McCoy’s QRP has generated enough proceeds from past sales to keep the Installation’s solid waste and recycling programs operational. As we wait for the market to improve, we’re proud to keep our QRP operational. Recycling is one of the best ways to have a positive impact on the world. And I think we all need something to be positive about these days.”

Devens RFTA DPW is optimistic in the future success of their QRP. “We understand it will take a while to see any funds,” clarified MacMillan. “But in the immediate future, we’ll strengthen our waste diversion as part of the overall effort to enhance Devens RFTA’s modernization and resilience. As time and staffing permit, we hope to expand the QRP beyond brass. Through our strategic planning efforts, we’ll continue to enhance operations for our visiting Soldiers and tenants, and that’s what makes us the Installation of choice in New England.”