The dining facilities at Womack Army Medical Center and the Warrior Transition Battalion will be testing bio-based and compostable food containers in the coming weeks. The tests and surveys will be conducted by Sustainable Fort Bragg, Defense Logistics Agency and Concurrent Technologies Corporation.

According to Brian Yallaly, CTC senior project engineer, the current Styrofoam and plastic food containers will be replaced with a variety of more sustainable options during the test period. Patrons of the dining facilities will test cups, containers and utensils manufactured with paper, biodegradable fibers and agricultural materials created from potato and corn.

These bio-based and compostable materials are designed to replace Styrofoam and plastic and they provide benefits both to public health and to the environment. 

Styrofoam is a petroleum based product. It  can leach detrimental chemicals into food and into the environment. Additionally it is a major element of the waste stream as it does not naturally decompose, and it cannot be recycled. 

Plastics are also commonly manufactured with petroleum based chemicals, and they often contain food residues that render them unrecyclable.

Yallaly said that the sustainable containers usually biodegrade in 30 to 60 days, and they meet American Society for Testing and Materials, standards.

John Woloszyn, deputy, Supplier Support Division of DLA Troop Support Subsistence, said that the move from Styrofoam to bio-based materials will help the Department of Defense meet ambitious goals toward environmentally preferred purchasing. Executive Orders require federal agencies such as Fort Bragg to advance sustainable acquisitions.

Woloszyn explained that bio-based and compostable materials are viable for the Army because the costs for such products have decreased as their designs have significantly improved. 

“There is a growing commercial market for bio-based and biodegradable food containers,” he noted. At Fort Bragg, FMWR facilities use environmentally preferred food containers as well.

To ensure that the environmentally sound materials are practical, DLA and CTC have developed a survey for patrons to provide their opinions on the biobased and compostable containers.

Patrons can either participate in the survey at the Womack Army Medical Center dining facility or at the Warrior Transition Battalion dining facility, or they can complete the survey online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WAMC or at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WTBDFAC. All participants who complete a survey will be entered into a drawing for one, of two, Sustainable Fort Bragg gift bags.

“Implementing sustainable products at food services facilities has been a challenge,” said George Handy, the Director of Green Programs at CTC. “We want to find a viable, environmentally sound alternative to Styrofoam and other traditional materials and still ensure that we meet the needs of the consumer. Transitioning to bio-based and compostable containers is a natural step as Fort Bragg works to implement composting at their facilities and to achieve the standards set forth by the DoD and the Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan.”

For more information, contact Stacey Harter, sustainable materials planner, at 396-8586.