Navy dumps biodegradable waste

Lt. Charlie Deibler
Lt. Charlie Deibler
Commanding Officer David Adler
Commanding Officer David Adler

By Howard Dashefsky - bio | email

PEARL HARBOR (KHNL) - It considers itself environmentally friendly. But the U.S. Navy dumps tons of waste into the ocean almost every day.

It does so legally, and it goes to great lengths to do it safely.

Most navy ships deploy for months at a time. And they can accumulate tons of garbage.

While the ships are prohibited from dumping any plastic waste at sea, they can dispose of biodegradable waste beyond 3 miles of land, thanks to a large machine called a pulper.

"Most navy ships have it," said  Lt. Charlie Deiber.  "We use this to process wet garbage and cardboard. It adds salt water, and it turns into a nice slurry and if we're outside three nautical miles we can discharge it over the sea."

Navy officials say the trash they dispose of is basically fish food.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say they don't fully know the full effects of the dumping on coral or marine life.

They say there are ongoing projects to look at the quantity and possible effects of the biodegradable waste.

And while the biodegradable waste gets dumped, all plastic waste remains on board, after being melted down and compressed into large pizza sized disks.

"We're very conscious of it," said Commanding Officer David Adler. "I think we're very good stewards of it and we've gone to great lengths to prevent any kind of environmental damage."