• Al Ponton, equipment operator at the Joint Base Lewis-MChord, Wash., Earthworks facility, prepares clean-up debris from the recent ice storm, to be processed and composted. Earthworks has been turning organic waste material from JBLM into valuable landscaping products since 2006.

    Loading compost 2

    Al Ponton, equipment operator at the Joint Base Lewis-MChord, Wash., Earthworks facility, prepares clean-up debris from the recent ice storm, to be processed and composted. Earthworks has been turning organic waste material from JBLM into valuable...

  • Al Ponton, equipment operator at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Earthworks facility, loads mulch into a private contractor's truck. Earthworks has been turning organic waste material from JBLM into valuable landscaping products since 2006.

    Loading compost 1

    Al Ponton, equipment operator at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Earthworks facility, loads mulch into a private contractor's truck. Earthworks has been turning organic waste material from JBLM into valuable landscaping products since 2006.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. (March 8, 2012) -- Waste may arguably be the most unavoidable, undesirable and destructive bi-product of life. Frustrating to most, waste brings pollution and devaluation to any environment. Ecological survival depends on how well people respond to that waste which continuously piles up around them.

On Feb. 22, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, or JBLM, sold at auction what is being called the largest pile of compost ever sold through the government's surplus liquidation site.

"We sold about 1,000 yards (approximately 5,076,000 lbs.) of high-quality compost for approximately $9,000," said Ken Smith, chief of the Environmental Operations Branch of the JBLM Public Works office. Smith said JBLM has been composting nearly 4,000 yards each year at the Earthworks composting facility.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord recycled a net profit of approximately $2.5 million in 2011, Smith said. These dollars are redirected to Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs.

A 2005 solid waste characterization survey showed that approximately 41 percent of the then-Fort Lewis waste stream was organic in nature and could be reclaimed and composted. Organic waste consists of leaves, grass, landscaping and land-clearing debris, stable waste, food waste and sewage sludge.

Since 2006 the JBLM Earthworks compost facility has been turning organic waste resources into valuable landscaping and soil enhancement products for use on JBLM or for sale by the Qualified Recycling Program to private buyers in the local community.

For going above and beyond to remain environmentally and financially responsible, JBLM is enjoying a relative pot of gold at the end of the composting rainbow.

As directed by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, JBLM has been a pilot installation of the Army's Net Zero Initiative since 2006 and as such, has been highly aggressive in the war on waste.

The Net Zero Initiative is the Army's environmentally conscious force multiplier whose goals address issues of energy, water and waste. Smith said the initiative also helps to show the public that (the Army) is being responsible with their tax dollars.

"The public's general consensus of the military and the government seems to be that it wastes money, but the truth is that we're taking waste products and turning it into a viable commodity," said Jeremy Becker, senior science technician and Earthworks facility manager. "We're doing good things here; we're making dollars and sense."

The average person may look at a pile of compost and see only dirt through their untrained eyes, but according to Ron Norton, contractor, and solid waste and recycling program manager at the Public Works office, "It's black gold to us."

Through coordinated collection efforts with the contracted refuse and recycling service provider, organic waste is redirected to Earthworks from facilities on base such as dining facilities, restaurants, child-care centers and fast food chains. By processing and composting its own organic waste JBLM saves the money it would have spent on landfill disposal or recycling facility tipping fee costs.

In 2011 the Earthworks facility doubled the size of its operational areas in an effort to meet present and future needs of JBLM and to work toward the Army's vision of "Net Zero Waste by 2020."

The most exciting part of the whole process is looking at what's to come, said Smith.

"We plan to add the McChord side of JBLM to the equation in June," he said.

Page last updated Thu March 8th, 2012 at 00:00