Military Base Saves $300,000 with Composting

by | Mar 1, 2013

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The US military composted 670 tons of food waste at its Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash., in 2012, diverting the food from landfills and saving $300,000 in disposal costs, the base’s official newspaper The Northwest Guardian reports.

Revenue and savings from the program support the base’s recycling as well as its programs for family, morale, welfare and recreation.

The food waste, which is collected from Army and Air Force Exchange Service restaurants, unit dining facilities, child care centers, and other facilities, is delivered to the JBLM Earthworks composting facility several times a week. The JBLM Lewis Main Commissary alone recycled 261,760 pounds of food waste last year, saving $21,062 in disposal costs.

The composting facility is part of the JBLM’s six-year-old program, which converts about 4,000 tons of organic waste into a high-quality soil amendment product annually, reusing it in on- and off-base projects. The base added food waste to the composting operation four years ago.

The Army says composting food waste has significantly boosted its effort to achieve its net zero waste by 2020 program goal.

Although the majority of the soil enhancement materials stay on base, JBLM sells some of the compost to Washington state businesses for storm water control, landscaping and construction projects.

JBLM is the first military base to obtain US Composting Council Seal of Testing Assurance certification. A USCC STA program manager says this means the compost has passed the highest level of EPA standards for metals and pathogens.

In February, Washington, DC mayor Vincent Gray announced a sustainability plan for the district that includes, among other measures, establishing facilities to accept residential and commercial compost, sending zero solid waste to landfills, and reducing total waste generation by 15 percent by 2032.

The world wastes up to 2 billion metric tons of food each year, according to a January report by the UK Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

A report published the same month by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation says an income stream of $1.5 billion could be generated annually for municipalities and investors by separately collecting household food waste in the UK and processing it in line with circular principles, to generate biogas and return nutrients to agricultural soils. An additional profit of $1.90 to $2 per hectoliter of beer could be created in Brazil by selling brewers’ spent grains to farmers in the fish and livestock sectors, the report said.

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