The Department of Defense (DoD) produces more classified documents than any other organization in the United States. These documents ultimately windup being destroyed, often by pulverization. As a result, a sizable waste stream is created.

In response, an ongoing operational demonstration and validation project utilizing pulverized paper as a source of organic matter for degraded soils seeks to validate the use of the pulverized paper as a soil amendment. In a project led by Dr. Ryan Busby, the Engineering Research and Development Center (ERDC) seeks to not only rid the DoD of the waste but do so in a manner that creates conditions favorable to native vegetation on disturbed Army training lands. As a result, this project not only addresses a unique DoD problem in managing large volumes of classified paper wastes but also addresses several high priority Army environmental requirements in a cost-effective manner.

As the project enters the last year, the preliminary results validate the technology. Pulverized paper, which typically has a carbon: nitrogen (C:N) ratio, an important factor for determining suitability, possess a ratio of ~85 making it an ideal source of organic matter to rehabilitate damaged soils and support native vegetation. If results continue to remain positive, the DoD garners a true win-win with the diversion of a waste stream into a benefit for vegetation and soil health. The Warfighter, however, receives the greatest benefit because realistic training requires training lands that support continued use for training critical combat skills.

Sophisticated readers may at this point wonder if there are any broader environmental implications with the use of this technique since heavy metal and other materials may be used in the paper and print production processes. To date, heavy metal and forganic contaminant analysis indicate no regulatory concerns associated with this approach to land application.

For more information you can visit the project’s overview page on our website and look out for the Final Report in the fall of 2018!