FORT LEE, Va. (Jan. 11, 2016) -- The numbers are in: military commissaries surpassed their fiscal 2015 environmental goals for recycling and diverting waste from landfills.

The Defense Commissary Agency, or DeCA, achieved an 83 percent recycling efficiency rate, the highest in the agency's history, said Randy Eller, deputy director of DeCA's logistics directorate. Along the way, DeCA recycled more than 60,000 tons of cardboard, 1,900 tons of plastic, and more than 108 tons of paper.

"Our commitment to environmental goals is reflected in the rapid increase in the recycling numbers year after year," Eller said. "Due to the outstanding efforts of our store personnel worldwide, our recycling efficiency rates have risen each year - from 75 percent in 2012 to 2015's 83 percent. That's a job well done!"

Adding to the agency's environmental successes for 2015 were the stores, which actually reached the "net zero" landmark. Net zero waste is a "whole systems" effort, and changes the way materials flow through an organization, ideally resulting in no waste.

Seven stores achieved net zero status through organic contracts, which turn all organic material into compost. The stores include four commissaries in Hawaii - Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hickam Air Force Base and Schofield Barracks - plus the stores at McChord Air Force Base and Fort Lewis in Washington, and Los Angeles Air Force Base in California.

Finally, the continued expansion of DeCA's food bank program is paying both environmental and local community dividends. In 2015, the agency's program to donate edible but unsellable food climbed from 110 to 134 commissaries partnered with 117 U.S. food banks, up from 77 banks in 2014.

"Our food bank program resulted in just under 2.4 million pounds of food diverted from ending up in landfills and being used to feed the hungry," Eller said.