FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Reaching the goal of net zero waste at Fort Carson is getting a boost through a waste service contract that began in May, which includes the task of collecting compostable waste at several dining facilities and the commissary.

Six Nations, the new recycle and refuse contractor, subcontracts with local company Bestway Disposal for collection of the food waste. Daily collection runs are made to the Wolf, Stack and Warfighter dining facilities to pick up pre-consumer food waste and what was left on patron's plates at the dining facilities.

The commissary will begin composting spoiled food within the next several weeks, when it receives a large-scale compactor.

"Organic waste typically is the second largest percentage of municipal waste behind paper products," said Eric Bailey, recycle program manager, Operations and Maintenance Division, Directorate of Public Works. "Having large generators of that material on post, we believe it's an easy approach to putting another major dent in landfill-bound materials."

The dining facilities generate about 150 pounds of food waste per meal, said Jack Haflett, DPW pollution prevention coordinator. At the commissary, nearly 70 percent of the waste disposed of is from food spoilage.

Bailey estimates that through the compost collection effort, up to 1,200 tons of food waste will be collected and diverted from going to the landfill yearly.

Many items are compostable, to include such things as fruit and vegetable peels, meat, tea bags, coffee grounds, bread, egg shells and various paper products.

At its end state, the waste becomes beneficial again, becoming compost through natural decomposition of the material with other wastes (such as bio-solids, gypsum, wood, yard wastes, etc.). Once the compost process is complete, it can be used as natural fertilizer that is rich in nutrients, explained Bailey.

Sgt. Donald Dew, repair and utility noncom­missioned officer at Wolf Dining Facility, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, was trained by the contractor when composting was begun at the facility. Food waste from Wolf DFAC fills both waste containers located at the back of the facility daily, said Dew.

Dew, a "born and raised farm boy" from North Dakota likes the idea that through his DFAC's composting efforts, landfill disposal is avoided and the food eventually becomes fertilizer.

Initiatives on Fort Carson, such as composting, can help drive community behavior. As the installation invests in composting, Haflett hopes it contributes to an even wider push for composting -- even possibly to people's homes.

The amounts of composted waste collected at the three DFACs and commissary will be measured periodically to evaluate the progress of the program and help determine if it should be expanded to other Fort Carson facilities where food is served, including restaurants, schools and child development centers.

The DPW headquarters, building 1219, led the initial composting effort for Fort Carson in June 2012 when it began collecting food waste and paper products. Haflett estimates that the DPW has diverted 3,000 pounds of compostable waste, about 70 percent of the total waste from the building, from going to the landfill.