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Making a Difference

WHS Promotes Sustainability at Nation's Defense Headquarters

A picture of someone placing an empty soda bottle into the recycling container

A 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.

An Executive Order issued on October 8, 2009, mandated that all federal agencies increase their recycling rates to 50% by the end of Fiscal Year 2015. WHS took on the mission for the Pentagon, expanding the strong Pentagon Renovation Project recycling program for construction materials, into an efficient, all-encompassing recycling system for all waste materials. With the implementation of the Hybrid Single Stream (HSS) Program in October 2012, recycling rates for non-construction solid waste jumped from around 16% to over 40% within the first month. Current recycling rates fluctuate between 48% and 51% of all waste, resulting in approximately 150 to 200 tons of recycled material, on a monthly basis.

Single stream recycling is a proven method to extract all possible value from a solid waste stream. 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 sorted by trained professionals at an off-site Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), a vast improvement from the previous recycling program that relied on Pentagon tenants to sort their own waste.

As part of the Qualified Recycling Plan, all recycled materials are then resold on the open market as useful commodities. 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 include “green” requirements, providing guidance on how WHS manages its waste, the types of materials used for construction, and even products used in restrooms.

The Pentagon building itself is also in accordance with modern sustainable architecture. WHS leads the effort for efficient energy usage and 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 Remote Delivery Facility, the Metro Entrance Facility, and the Pentagon Library and Conference Center (LEED Silver, 2011). The Mark Center achieved WHS’s first LEED Gold certification in 2011. 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, reduce energy usage, and provide a sustainable working environment for future generations.

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