Commissaries routinely recycle, divert waste, conserve resources

By Jessica Rouse
DeCA public affairs specialist

For the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), Earth Day, April 22, isn’t a one-day event. Since 2005, commissaries have recycled or diverted almost 1.6 billion pounds of waste from landfills all around the world.

“We are part of the communities we serve,” said Robin Armhold, a DeCA environmental engineer. “We take our commitment to serving the patron very seriously and protecting the environment is part of that commitment. And that’s just one more reason to shop with us – customers ‘save green’ while we do our part to keep the surrounding communities clean and green.”

DeCA’s environmental management system (EMS) is the framework that helps the agency achieve its environmental goals through control of its operations.

Over the last 13 years, DeCA has recycled almost 1.4 billion pounds of cardboard alone. The agency also recycles plastic, office paper, food donations, organics (fruits and vegetables), fats and bones, kitchen grease, metal, wood and pallets.

“We are continuously working to protect the environment by using practices like recycling, donating edible but unsellable food and other methods of diverting waste from landfills,” Armhold said. “We believe our employees’ understanding of the EMS is essential to the success of DeCA.”

During 2017, DeCA diverted 134 million pounds of material from reaching landfills. The agency recycled over 114 million pounds of cardboard, over 3.6 million pounds of plastic, more than 250,000 pounds of office paper, over 300,000 pounds of metal, over 400,000 pounds of wood and over 5.6 million pounds of pallets.

The agency also recycled more than 1.2 million pounds of bones and fats, almost 12,000 pounds of kitchen grease and recovered nearly 3.5 million pounds of organic products.

DeCA also donates edible but unsellable food to food banks throughout the country through its food bank program. With the help of the program, the agency increased donations by almost 2 million pounds from 2016 to 2017 and donated over 460,000 pounds of food. As of April 11, 150 commissaries are now donating edible but unsellable fruits and vegetables to 147 food banks, helping to feed more of those in need.

Customers can also purchase “green” products considered safe for the environment. In its stock assortment, DeCA carries organically grown fruits and vegetables, energy-saving compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs, high-efficiency laundry products and environmentally friendly cleaning products. Customers can also find products with reduced packaging like paper towels and bathroom tissue without the cardboard tubes. Customers can also purchase reusable shopping bags at the commissary.

Throughout the years, DeCA has expanded the types of items it recycles. For instance, in 2017, the agency diverted 295 tons of used equipment that was sold through a liquidation service rather than the waste going to a landfill. The sale of these items generated over $869,000 in surcharge revenue for the agency.

“The money we earned from that sale and the recycling of materials all goes back into our surcharge fund,” said Armhold. “It then is invested right back into the commissary benefit because the surcharge provides funds to repair, renovate and build commissaries.

“We are very proud of our accomplishments,” said Armhold. “Our environmental management system has helped us streamline our processes, and we are always looking for ways to reduce and conserve even more.”

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