News: Depot benefits from food waste recycling efforts
Story by Cpl. Kristin Moreno
SAN DIEGO - As the first participant in the City of San Diego’s Commercial Food Waste Recycling Program, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego continues to play an active role in keeping the environment green by producing approximately 11 tons of pre- and post-consumer food waste per week.
The Commercial Food Waste Recycling Program processes food scraps into compost product at the Miramar Greenery that later can be used to improve soil texture and increase its nutrient and water-holding capacity.
The depot first began their involvement in the program in 2001 by completing the pilot program phase to ensure the implementation of the program was feasible and the installation was a positive contributor.
During this phase, the facility representative accompanies the program staff to inspect and evaluate the first three loads of food waste at the greenery. Upon completion of the pilot program phase, the depot was officially accepted into the program in 2002.
On average, the depot serves approximately 8,000 meals per day to support the mission of making Marines, which leads to more than 416,000 tons of compost a year. The depot represents 38 percent of the program’s total waste diversion.
“This figure has significant value in maintaining a green sustainable footprint image to the local community and in meeting U.S. Marine Corps goals and requirements,” said Bill Nelsen, manager of the Facilities Division recycling program.
Previously, the food waste was collected as trash and discarded at a local landfill. Now, the depot benefits from saving money because there’s less tonnage of waste leaving the installation.
The compost process consists of first grounding up yard trimmings and food scraps and placing them in windrows. The windrows are turned and watered for 70 days, giving the microorganisms time to digest the carbon- and nitrogen-rich mixture. During the process, the windrows sustain temperatures between 140-165 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows the organic material to break down into beneficial soil nutrients, which is later screened to a particle size of one half inch of less to remove any film plastic from the final product.
According to the City of San Diego Environmental Services Web site, the soil in San Diego lacks many essential plant nutrients. Mixing compost in with the soil is one of the best things to do for a yard and garden.
In order to participate in the Commercial Food Waste Composting Program, the city staff meets with the facility staff. They discuss and provide technical assistance for on-site and logistics implementation of the program and train all kitchen, maintenance and administration staff of the process. The facility then must complete the pilot program phase before becoming a regular participant in the program.
There are currently 11 businesses participating in the program throughout San Diego, including Sea World San Diego, PETCO Park and the San Diego International Airport.
For more information on the program and its benefits, visit the City of San Diego food waste Web site at www.sandiego.gov/ environmental-services/ miramar/foodwaste.shtml.