The first step in controlling pollution and minimizing waste from a military facility is to find out how much material and what type of material is being brought into the facility. This information is not easily obtained, and few if any installations can tell for certain what all their material imputs are. However, even imprecise estimates of the amount of material brought into the facility can help determine start points for control strategies. Often, after merely looking at what the facility is ordering, substantial reductions or effective substitutions can be made. A centralized computer system that could identify the total amount of material coming into the installation would be a useful management tool. Unusually large orders or inputs of toxic or hazardous materials are good initial places to look for reductions.
Typically, pollution control and waste minimization have been thought of as logistical or engineering functions. A more effective approach would require managers at all organizational levels to know what all of their inputs are (materials, energy, utilities) and to examine their input stream for reductions. Focusing on first reducing the amount of inputs can eliminate much waste. Often smaller quantities can be ordered, less toxic material substituted, or some items eliminated entirely. Working with suppliers can be especially helpful, as suppliers of hazardous materials are under intense pressure to reduce the hazard level of their products, to reduce packaging, and to accept empty containers for reuse or recycling.
The second step is to examine the various processes at the facility to find economies and efficiencies. Most industrial and materials processes at military facilities were not designed with pollution control or minimization in mind until relatively recently. All processes must be continuously evaluated so they can be made to consume fewer inputs of materials, energy, and hazardous materials. Process improvement may entail improved housekeeping, better maintenance of equipment, training of employees, replacement of older equipment with newer, more efficient models, or completely new ways of performing required industrial tasks. Engineers ought to be especially active in asking employees who actually run the processes how savings can be achieved. Often, the employee closest to the process can provide the best suggestions on ways to make the process less polluting, less energy-intensive, or less expensive.
Nor should relatively inexpensive, simple solutions be overlooked. Actions such as providing plastic covers for metal drums can prevent contamination from rainwater, thus protecting products stored outside and avoiding large disposal fees.
Since many military installations share similar processes and facilities, it is often possible to obtain information from other facilities on how to improve operations. Information sharing and exchange are vital elements in any plan to reduce waste or minimize pollution. Processes that have been implemented at one installation can often be implemented at another with little modification. The United States Department of Defence is undertaking a department-wide effort to reduce the amount of hazardous waste generated. Specialized agencies throughout the department serve as consultants or centers of expertise for waste reduction and should be called on for assistance. Environmental engineers assigned to military facilities should aggressively pursue efforts to replace toxic material with less toxic substances.
It is especially important for military facilities to plan and budget for pollution control and waste minimization. These facilities do not have the flexibility of private industry, and procurement times tend to be longer. Installation and organizational plans, both long-term and short-term, as well as budgets, must include planning and funding for new equipment and facilities. The military facility's higher headquarters must be kept fully informed as to the status of minimization efforts and the need for capital investment.
The third, and final, step is to control and properly dispose of the wastes that are generated. This requires disposal systems and options, and education of the installation population. The primary type of disposal of wastes from military facilities should be recycling. Almost all military facilities have recycling systems, and there is an accounting system in place to return profits from the recycling program to the facility. However, recycling could be greatly expanded, resulting in significant cost savings as disposal fees for waste increase. All wastes should be evaluated for recycling before disposal, and consideration should be given to giving away waste material such as scrap lumber or metal rather than disposing of it as pure waste.
Recycling programs on military facilities should be fully integrated with the local community. The military recycling program should be made available to the local community, and those who live and work on the installation should be encouraged to participate in community recycling programs. It is essential that recycling programs be fully coordinated and integrated into programs sponsored by other military facilities and the local community, both in the United States and in foreign countries.
Current and pending legislation, primarily at the state level, will require that certain percentages of the waste stream be recycled. It is impossible to determine if the military facility is meeting this goal unless the waste managers have accurate information on both the amount of material coming into the installation and the amount of waste being generated. This reinforces the need for automated materials tracking systems.
There is a considerable amount of technical information available on pollution control and waste minimization, much of which is readily applicable to military facilities. Employees and managers at all organizational levels should be required to be on the lookout for alternative processes and methods and ways to improve existing processes. It is critically important that waste minimization and pollution control be seen as a primary responsibility of those who actually work with the systems and materials and not the responsibility of the environmental engineer. Pollution control and waste minimization must be seen as a line, and not a staff, function; these requirements should be part of efficiency reports and performance appraisals. While supply personnel are in a critical position, leaders and managers must specify that they want nontoxic materials whenever possible, and must specify that they prefer products made from recycled, postconsumer waste.
One extremely valuable, yet sometimes overlooked, resource available to military facilities is audit capability. Most military facility commanders have professional auditors available to support them. These auditors can examine all phases of the pollution control, waste minimization, and recycling program and can assist in achieving considerable savings and efficiencies. Environmental engineers working on military facilities are encouraged to seek auditing support. The payoff can be enormous.
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