Whether we like it or not, garbage and its disposal is everyone’s business. Every year, the world churns out 1.3 billion tons of municipal solid waste and this figure is expected to reach 2.2 billion tons annually (World Bank). In the US, we produced 254 million tons of garbage, recycled and composted about 87 million tons or a recycling rate of 34.3% in 2013 according to the EPA. The military economy alone is responsible for 2.8 % of GDP according to the DoD Office of Economic Adjustment. It also produces waste but works diligently to reduce waste production.
Efforts of the Military Commissaries at Waste Reduction
The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) of the DoD operates over 245 commissaries across the globe. Its environmental management system (EMS) ensures protection of the environment by reducing and recycling waste. Last year, DeCA recycled nearly 1.12 million pounds of paper, roughly 421,000 pounds of metal and more than 3.7 million pounds of plastic.
Food recycling is also an important part of its efforts with 1.5 million pounds of bones/fats and nearly 30,000 pounds of (kitchen) grease recycled. It donated 2.7 million pounds of edible but unsalable food through its food bank donation program in 2016. This year or as of March 2017, DeCA had already given nearly 2 million pounds of food to the program. Treatment and diverting waste are not the only activities the agency promotes. It also sells organic foods and green products that are considered environmentally-friendly such as reusable shopping bags. DeCA continues to achieve and even surpass its waste management targets.
How Families and Personnel Can Help
Whether living on or off the base or shopping at commissaries, there are several ways that individuals and families can help reduce carbon footprint and solid waste disposal. As waste disposal units are popular and installed in over 50% of American homes (US Census Bureau, 2009), food waste is treated in the sewage system diverting much of it from landfills.
The mantra of waste management is to reduce, reuse and recycle. Go for reusable shopping bags and buy products with the least packaging. Where it is not possible to avoid waste residuals, segregate as much as possible. Educating yourself and others around you helps increase waste management awareness and prevent a lot of trash from ending up in landfills.
Waste management is key to this planet’s survival. Unless we want to be buried by our own garbage, everyone is encouraged to make proper trash disposal their business. The concerted efforts of military commissaries and surrounding communities can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of the environment.
*this article was submitted by guest contributor Lucy Wyndham