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Making a Difference

WHS Promotes Sustainability at Nation's Defense Headquarters

Four recyling bins of various shades for different materials lined up against a wall

Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) directs multiple initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of the world’s largest low-rise office building. With over 25,000 inhabitants, the Pentagon serves as the nation’s Defense headquarters, allowing for broad visibility of sustainability initiatives and the opportunity to pave the way for “greener” practices across the federal government.

A 2012 Executive Order mandated that the Pentagon increased its recycling rate from 16% to 50% by 2015. WHS took on the mission to implement an efficient, all-encompassing recycling system to expand on basic measures in place prior to the mandate, such as a plan to recycle used construction materials. Well ahead of schedule, current recycling rates hover between 48% and 50% of all waste.

In order to exceed its goals, WHS also implemented the Hybrid Single Stream (HSS) Program. The HSS Program collects and processes all solid waste including different types of paper, cardboard, scrap metals, plastics, aluminum cans, toner cartridges, wood pallets, yard waste, and construction and demolition debris. This non-hazardous waste is then processed at an off-site Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), a vast improvement from the previous recycling program that only processed two types of plastics.

As part of the Qualified Recycling Plan, all recycled materials are then resold. There has been significant return on construction materials, printer cartridges, and cardboard, with proceeds used to advance the efforts of the recycling program. Additionally, all WHS contracts now include “green” requirements, containing standards for processing waste. These requirements contain guidance on how WHS manages its waste, the types of materials used for construction, and even products used in restrooms.

The Pentagon itself is also in accordance with modern sustainable architecture. WHS led the effort for maximized energy usage and even enhanced indoor environmental quality for improved employee health. Upon the completion of the Pentagon Renovation project, the Pentagon had achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council for 4 of 5 wedges and a number of newly-created facilities, including the Pentagon Athletic Center, the Pentagon Library and Conference Center, the Metro Entrance Facility, and the Remote Delivery Facility.

WHS strives to encourage those working for the Defense Department along with those in the National Capital Region to partake in continued efforts to boost recycling levels and provide a sustainable working environment for future generations.

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