Army surplus

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:

On Salisbury Plain and at Aldershot, the Army doesn’t just have new living and working accommodation, but a new waste management service too. Geraldine Faulkner visits the garrisons to find out more

Napoleon is attributed with the saying ‘an army marches on its stomach’, attesting to the importance of forces being well-provisioned. However, today’s modern army not only has to think about fuelling its soldiers, it also has to consider what happens to the food that is not eaten; namely its food waste, along with the reduction of its operation’s formidable carbon footprint.

So where better to carry out trials on the reduction of food waste and its carbon footprint than the garrisons on Salisbury Plain and at Aldershot, the ‘home of the British Army’?

PAC – Project Allenby/Connaught – is a private finance initiative (PFI) contract held by Aspire Defence since 2006 with the Ministry of Defence. Indeed, the contract is reported to be the largest infrastructure PFI ever let by the MOD and its main goal is to deliver new and enhanced single living and working accommodation on garrisons across Salisbury Plain and at Aldershot.

Soldiers, who used to share rooms and communal washing facilities in Victorian buildings which were difficult to maintain, now have their own bedrooms with private en-suite facilities. Under PAC, Aspire Defence Services Limited (ADSL) is contracted to provide hard and soft facilities management services on the garrisons. Services provided by ADSL include building and assets management, office services, sport and leisure, stores, grounds maintenance, transport and waste management and, in partnership with Sodexo Defence, cleaning, catering, retail and mess management.

Sébastien Jouan, business improvement manager at ADSL, explains: “We work very closely with our customer and the Aspire Defence purpose, vision and values when it comes to looking after the welfare of soldiers.”

One of ADSL’s aims is to support the Army units based on PAC to meet their environmental targets by introducing innovation. For example, the extraction of recyclables and power generation from the remaining waste has resulted in 100% diversion from landfill for nearly three years.

Recent trials carried out by ADSL across garrisons on Salisbury Plain, including Warminster, Bulford and Tidworth, identified a potential 10% recycling increase in food waste. This has been achieved by implementing a food waste recycling initiative in soldiers’ and officers’ dining facilities with the help of Hills Waste Solutions (HWS) and Sodexo Defence.

Once the food waste, whether it’s food waste in packaging, bread and bakery products or cooked meat, has been collected separately, it is taken to an anaerobic digestion facility
at Westbury in Wiltshire where micro-organisms break down the food waste, producing biogas, methane and carbon dioxide, which is used to produce electricity.
It also creates biofertiliser, which is used in farming as a natural fertiliser.

But this is not all

In a two-pronged approach to reducing the garrisons’ carbon footprint, HWS has installed waste management sensors on ADSL garrison bins collecting general waste, alongside the food waste recycling initiative. In a first for the commercial application of smart sensor technology – which has previously only been used by UK local authorities – wireless sensors have been fitted under the lids of selected bins and the information gathered was analysed by HWS. The trial enabled HWS to monitor the levels of waste in its containers 24/7 and identify those which needed emptying.

Following the implementation of the bin sensors at Aldershot, HWS is now able to reduce the collections of commercial and general waste at the garrisons from four days a week to three. An added bonus.

Jouan explained: “The pilot took place over nine months, and we were the first to introduce the system in a commercial context. Clearly there was an element of risk in trialling it; however, we wanted to find out answers to questions like: ‘Can this Smart technology help us in the delivery of our service?’ ‘Can we afford it?’ Nonetheless, there was a level of commitment from both ADSL and HWS.”

The longevity of the contract has clear advantages as it allows ADSL to forge long-term partnerships with the supply chain. ADSL started working with HWS eight years ago and, according to Jouan: “We began on a basic principle; ‘You supply us with bins and you get rid of the waste.’ However, a few months down the line, we needed to focus on increasing our recycling rate. What do we need to put in place? How can we make recycling bins work in a different way? How can we introduce improvements in recycling? We no longer wanted a traditional waste disposal contract – we wanted a zero-to-landfill contract.”

The business improvement manager emphasises that ADSL was also determined not to incur landfill costs on behalf of the client.

“HWS were successful in achieving that aim, but they had to change to adapt to our requirement,” recalls Jouan.

Gary McKinnon, divisional director, HWS, takes up the story: “We had to change how we viewed the contract and this meant changing from being a supplier to being a partner. From day one, we imposed KPIs looking at improvements and innovations. Some of the innovations are the sensors, while others are on how we operate particularly from a health and safety point of view. We attend health and safety meetings at board level as a partner where discussions are held on issues such as reducing the number of trucks moving about on garrisons emptying bins. It is no longer simply about making cost savings, but health and safety. Other recycling initiatives include tool box talks to soldiers when they come back from tour. Part of their induction will include recycling issues. A load of bins and waste will be placed on the ground and soldiers asked what they think should be recycled.”

Things to come

Looking to the future disposal of waste from Salisbury Plain along with other clients, HWS has been granted planning permission for an energy from waste facility next to its mechanical and biological treatment (MBT) plant at Westbury.

Sharing best practice, data and live information is high on both HWS and ADSL’s list of priorities.

Jouan again: “We are quite demanding as a client, but we do it in such a way that it is a win-win for all parties. The aim is that we will become stronger so we share practices and the way we apply it. Sharing information is important too; 48 hours after a bin collection, the MOD can access a portal to view what type of waste and quantity was collected. That was one of our contract scopes and adds huge value to it as we know exactly where the waste is going.”

McKinnon points to the advantages of the portal. “We have an open book with Aspire so they know exactly the costs as well as the benefits of the waste management initiatives that are being implemented. This is useful when it comes to CO2 emissions reporting. The other contractors that work with Aspire that have waste elements that we don’t handle, e.g. ground maintenance, also get their figures to go through our portal to give the client a better all-round picture of what is going on. In fact, we are fairly ahead with our technology what with 360-degree camera systems, and weighing waste as it’s loaded so that we don’t have to wait until the vehicle goes to a weighbridge.”

Finally, what does the diner’s services manager think of the food waste reduction initiatives that are being undertaken?

Shaun Williamson, services manager for Sodexo Defence, says: “It works really well as it gets our colleagues thinking more about food. Within this diner, we can feed up to 600 customers depending on which regiments are in or on exercise. During the weekly finance reporting, the head chefs and managers report on the amount of food waste there has been in each kitchen. This is shared with the teams and gives colleagues greater awareness and understanding with regards to the food waste and over-production. This is important and the team understand how it may affect their business on a weekly basis.”

Napoleon might have accused the English of being a nation of shopkeepers, but he wouldn’t be able to find fault with the way British forces are adapting to 21st century recycling initiatives.

Fact file:

  • In 2016 across PAC: 3,306 tonnes of waste were sent for recovery
  • 2,742 tonnes of waste recycled
  • 1.3 million meals served across 63 diners
  • 2,556 bins are serviced by Hills Waste Solutions; 74 are dedicated to food waste

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