Composting Organic Waste at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall: In-Vessel Earth Flow

Composting Organic Waste at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall: In-Vessel Earth Flow

Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (JBM-HH) in Arlington, Virginia was selected to host a demonstration of in-vessel composting in response to the waste management needs of Department of Defense contingency bases overseas. Currently these bases use burying and incineration as the standard means of disposal for the large amount of food waste and other biodegradable debris they generate. It is estimated that each there is 2-3 pounds of waste per soldier per day on base. Buried biodegradable debris lacks oxygen to break down efficiently and releases methane gas and acidic leachate as it decomposes, both creating environmental concern. Incinerating the waste is costly due to the fuel requirements to complete the burn of high moisture material such as food waste and other organic waste. An alternative to this operation needs to have low costs, both in money and manpower, while it also has the ability to be mobile, scalable, durable and easy to operate.

JBM-HH was chosen to host this demonstration because of the overlap in the desire for in vessel composting to meet the needs unique to the base. Located at JBM-HH is the 3rdU.S. Infantry, the Old Guard, which is the Army’s official ceremonial unit and security force in the Washington metropolitan area. The horses used to pull and accompany the caisson burial processions in Arlington National Ceremony adjacent to Fort Myer, and for other national governmental ceremonies are housed in the stables on the base. The disposal of the horse manure was an escalating cost for the base with the dumpster being hauled off site to landfill every three days. The open dumpster was also an eyesore and cause for odor in an otherwise pristine stable environment. Leveraging the desire to compost stable waste and the need to find an effective solution for contingency bases, JBM-HH would compost food waste from the dining facilities and commissary food waste together with the stable waste.

The In-Vessel Earth Flow was placed within the base just below high traffic areas such as the base commissary and had to meet stringent odor expectations as well as operate within a clean footprint.

A second study was run at JBM-HH that would replicate the waste needs of the contingency bases, using food waste, cardboard and wood. Most supplies reach the bases on wood pallets than can be chipped to supply woody material beneficial to the composting recipe, eliminating the need for incineration and the emissions created.

By removing food waste from the incineration piles it greatly improves the burn efficiency and lowers the associated fuel burden. When consideration is given to the transport of fuel for use to the remote bases, any savings is a significant one.

To pursue total systems thinking and a closed loop system with zero waste, JBM-HH had the opportunity to negate the cost of disposal for the stable waste and food waste while creating a needed product for the base in soil amendment. In both case studies, the cost benefits are found in not only efficient management of the waste disposal but through the creation of a product that could be used as soil amendment and for soil erosion control. Between the landscape needs of the base and the manicured grounds of Arlington Cemetery, a grid has been created to identify sites for a rotational deposit of compost.

In both studies, the Earth Flow In-Vessel composting system created a waste management system that met and exceeded the objectives set forth. The in-vessel composting allows for complete odor control with the attached custom bio-filter. It is easily moved with little break down both for truck transport and as air freight. The design of the vessel can be scalable reaching up to 40 feet in length and as small as 10 feet in length.

Operation of the system is simple and time efficient with much of the work being accomplished by the automated auger system mixing the material, aiding in the loading of material and the dumping of the finished product. Power use is very efficient at 6 kilowatt hours per day and maintenance over the 15 year life span of the product is minimal. Aesthetically the vessel is clean and compact.

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