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New tools for the war against waste

  • Published
  • By Chad Starr
  • Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment Public Affairs
The Air Force has some new ammunition in the war against waste thanks to Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment officials launching the third edition of the Win the War Against Waste tool kit recently.

Win the War Against Waste is an outreach campaign developed to support the Air Force's worldwide environmental objectives for solid waste management.

While earlier versions are still available, new tools have been added to the kit for this edition, said Nancy Carper, the integrated solid waste management specialist at AFCEE.

"I'm excited about a new feature to the tool kit -- public service announcement videos," Carper said. "They deliver a message for everybody, but it targets our younger Airmen by using a spin-off from the popular Transformer franchise which we have named Trashformer."

The tool kit provides outreach materials to help installations keep their campaigns fresh as they move toward achieving higher levels of waste diversion, officials said. It includes a full color logo, four magnet designs, two banner designs, three poster designs, four newspaper articles and two video public service announcements.

The Air Force-wide Win the War Against Waste campaign is an ongoing initiative to educate Air Force members, including active duty, civilian employees, contractors and family members on the importance of integrated solid waste management activities on their installations and encourage their personal involvement, the officials continued. The program supports Air Force efforts to meet the Department of Defense strategic sustainability performance plan goal of diverting 50 percent of non-hazardous solid waste, not including construction and demolition waste, by 2015 and thereafter Carper said. The target for 2012 is a 44-percent reduction, and 46 percent for 2013.

According to the latest Environmental Protection Agency statistics, in 2009, Americans generated about 243 million tons of waste, with the average person generating 4.34 pounds of waste per day. Eighty-two million tons were recycled and composted, equivalent to a 33.8 percent recycling rate. On average, Americans recycled and composted 1.46 pounds of their individual waste generation of 4.34 pounds per person per day. Recycling in 2009 prevented about 178 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released, the equivalent of the annual emissions of 33 million cars.

In 1980, 89 percent of Americans' waste wound up in a landfill according to the EPA. Only 54 percent wound up there in 2008.

There has been significant progress, but there's still more to do, Carper said. Waste doesn't just occur when a product is thrown away or hauled to the local landfill, however. It is generated throughout the life cycle of the product, from extraction of the raw materials required to manufacture an item and transporting those materials, to the processing, manufacturing facilities and energy used to make it and the distribution systems used to deliver it.

The Can Manufacturers Institute said the average American employee consumes 2.5 cans of soda each day at work, and the aluminum can industry can make up to 20 cans from recycled aluminum with the same amount of energy it takes to make one completely new can.

"When you take an aluminum can and reprocess it, it generates a lot less waste than producing another aluminum can from raw materials," Carper said.

"Recycling is pollution prevention, absolutely," said Carper. "But we tend to only focus on recycling when there's much more involved in winning the war against waste. It also includes reuse of materials, composting and source reduction -- reduce, reuse, recycle."

Reduction means reducing the amount of waste produced or reducing toxic substances in the waste, officials said. The most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place. One way to do that is by using reusable products to reduce the number of items manufactured.

"We buy so many things with so much packaging, from personal items to the little condiment packages you get at fast food places, and all this is going into the waste stream," said Carper.

Reusing items, or producing them with less material or packaging, decreases waste dramatically and results in fewer materials requiring recycling, combusting for energy or winding up in landfills.

The average American office worker, for example, uses about 500 disposable cups every year, according to Clean Air Council reports. Additional waste is created by manufacturers to replenish those items, when all the waste could be prevented by workers simply using reusable beverage containers.

On a larger scale, a new area of focus has been reusing or recycling construction material and debris on Air Force installations. When a new $43 million dollar runway was being designed at Fairchild AFB, Wash., the plan included recycling 60,000 tons of concrete and about 20,000 tons of asphalt from the existing runway.

"Reduce, reuse, recycle. To win the war against waste we need to continue to educate our Air Force on how they can contribute to the fight and show them that their efforts, large or small, can make a difference," Carper said. "The tool kit is one way we try to do that."

Additional information on the Win the War Against Waste campaign and the tool kit can be found on the AFCEE website at