70% of Defence Forces' waste is recycled


THE DEFENCE Forces have gone green by recycling up to 70 per cent of the waste they generate, slashing the volume going to landfill by more than three-quarters over the past eight years from 6,000 to 1,300 tonnes annually.

The cost of dealing with waste has also dropped dramatically, from €1.3 million in 2002 to an estimated €450,000 this year – largely as a result of switching from 16 local waste disposal contracts to a single fixed-price contract, tendered every three years.

Led by director of engineering Col Jim Foley, the effort to save money was spurred by increasing landfill charges in 2003/2004.

“That’s when we took the bull by the horns,” he said. Asked if changing the culture was the most difficult task, he replied: “Absolutely”.

The Defence Forces’ waste management campaign has involved the appointment of barracks waste management managers and teams, training of personnel and the installation of smart bins and compactor skips – and regular reminders.

Recycling is being extended to include composting for all kitchen waste in the nine largest barracks, including Cathal Brugha and McKee in Dublin and The Curragh. There are also annual inspections and awards – and “follow up action” in relation to poor performers.

On the energy front, a programme of upgrading the Defence Forces’ building stock – more insulation, upgrading of heating systems, installation of energy management systems and double-glazed windows – has cut electricity bills by 6 per cent since 2007.

Ongoing projects include the installation of solar panels at the naval base in Haulbowline, in Cork Harbour, as well as Collins Barracks, Cork.

Each barracks now has its own energy management team, trained by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Capt Sharon McManus, who has just returned from a tour of duty in Chad, heads the team; she has a Master’s degree in sustainable energy, as does Airman Bernard Lynch, from the Air Corps, who is a key member of the team. “They’re very committed,” Col Foley said.

A Defence Forces’ energy awareness day is being planned while a new energy register advises on energy saving measures, outlines the responsibilities of personnel at all levels, provides details of inspection requirements and daily checklists for duty personnel.

“It is intended that energy usage – electricity in particular – will be reduced to a minimum by having continuous monitoring by barrack energy teams,” Col Foley said. “This will provide a benchmark as to what can be achieved through vigilant management.” An energy database and reporting system is also being developed.

“This will allow more accurate and timely reporting and will also be used to enable the energy office to promptly highlight any anomalies, such as a sudden increase in water usage,” he explained.

Electricity and gas supply contracts for all barracks are being re-tendered and a cost-benefit analysis has been carried out to examine the value of switching from low-voltage electricity to cheaper medium voltage, as has already been done at the Naval Service dockyard.

Other environmental measures include testing for radon gas in Defence Forces’ installations, with remedial works undertaken where required, as well as an ongoing programme to upgrade sewage treatment, which is now nearing completion.