Environmental contractors make progress in base composting initiatives

Photo By Sgt. Khylee Woodford | A ground view of an existing compost lane, October 9, 2020, on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. The lane is one of several being established on the base to support environmental sustainability initiatives to reduce waste sent to landfills. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Khylee Woodford)



Story by Sgt. Khylee Woodford 

Area Support Group – Kuwait 

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – In strides with U.S. Army Energy Action month, Vectrus and U.S. Army Central environmental contractors began testing locally procured biodegradable materials with food waste from base dining facilities in a live composting demonstration, October 9, 2020, on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

The demonstration allowed the team of contractors to examine new biodegradable materials and identify processes best suited for building base resiliency, reducing waste sent to landfills, and establishing an enduring legacy of environmental sustainability efforts on U.S. Army installations in Kuwait.

Luis Velazquez, senior environmental, safety, and health engineer with Vectrus led the demonstration saying the testing phase represents significant steps forward in their environmental sustainability goals.

“We are testing to see how long it takes PLA (polylactic acid derived from corn starch materials) materials to decompose in this unique environment,” said Velazquez. “Depending on how it goes, we will see how we need to adjust…the goal is to get one step closer to the U.S. Army Net Zero waste reduction plan.”

Key leaders from Area Support Group – Kuwait were in attendance as contractors emptied biodegradable bags filled with shreddings of the PLA dining utensils, vegetable discards, eggshells, coffee grounds, and base shrubbery into a compost bin.

Velazquez’s demonstration gave leaders insight into how their environmental initiatives help achieve base resiliency and have an expansive, positive impact.

“My research shows it can take items in plastic bags and utensils up to 80 years to fully decompose,” said Velazquez. “With our process it can take up to 3 months. We want to protect our natural resources for future generations to come…we now have that foot in the right direction.”

U.S. Army Lt. Col. William Kesselring, Area Support Group – Kuwait Directorate of Public Works officer in charge, echoed the importance of the team’s efforts following the demonstration.

“One of our national strategic objectives is to maintain our host country relationship in a positive manner,” said Kesselring. “By being forward thinking and being progressive in recycling and waste reduction methods, we can have that impact.”

Another line of effort in the team’s waste reduction initiative was to support the local economy by procuring compost materials from Kuwaiti vendors.

U.S. Army Central contractor Kate Dewolf, an operational energy manager from Idaho National Labs, took the lead on this project.

“All of these items that are composting here are from a local Kuwait vendor,” said Dewolf. “The garbage bags are actually manufactured here in Kuwait so we are also supporting our host nation’s goals through this effort,” said Dewolf.

Although the demonstration presented a small scale approach at the group’s compost operational goals, Dewolf says this demonstration gives leaders a fresh idea of what they can achieve at a larger capacity.

“If we are going to take this to the perfect level we will have an upgraded compost,” said Dewolf. “With our existing compost operations, we have enough to do phase one of that.”

Dewolf and Velazquez’s composting operations in Kuwait are currently limited to pre-plated food and uncooked vegetables; however, the team hopes to expand its capabilities.

“We are saying 10-20 years from now we are still going to make an impact from the simple things we are doing now,” said Kesselring. “We do that in security, now we can also say we are doing that environmentally.”

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