SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers collected its 1 millionth cubic yard of debris from the island Dec. 9, 2017, and is seeking ideas from the island's residents to limit the amount of reduced debris reaching landfills.

"This milestone is significant to me in that it comes one day after we had our largest collection day since the debris mission started," said Lt. Col. Andrew Yoder, Recovery Field Office commander. "The coordination between USACE personnel, contractors and residents has picked up, and we've seen steady process in removing the debris."

"It is an important mark, but there is still a lot of work to do," said Kayla Stull, debris mission manager. "We're proud of where we are at, but now it becomes more imperative to find a practical and sound solution for the piles of mulch we have growing in our collection sites."

The large-scale debris removal effort, spanning every corner of the island, involves locally-contracted drivers actively collecting debris from 41 of 78 municipalities and delivering the material to temporary reduction sites. Dozens -- and at some site hundreds -- of trucks pass through the sites each day, dumping material which is then reduced by 66 percent through mulching operations.

"The reduction work is great, but because of the scale of debris we are dealing with we need to find creative solutions for the mulch so it doesn't all end up in a landfill," said Stull.

USACE is reaching out to municipality leaders who are interested in establishing mulch sites for residents who could use the material (for individual use). USACE is also seeking commercial and agricultural operations that could receive large quantities of mulched debris for their enterprises.

The total debris estimated for removal in Puerto Rico is 6.2 million cubic yards, of which 3.8 million cubic yards is tasked to the USACE. The 1 million cubic yards removed milestone comes one day after 38,239 cubic yards of debris was collected -- the largest amount of debris to be collected in a single day since operations began after hurricanes Irma and Maria.