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Harnessing Food Waste for Energy Resilience: Anaerobic Digestion at US Military Bases

6 min read

The US military is increasingly engaging sustainable best practices to further their mandates of safety, security and self-sufficiency. One environmentally-friendly solution of interest to the US Military is anaerobic digestion, a process well-suited to the unique challenges faced by military bases that also promotes energy efficiency and environmental stewardship.

In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of anaerobic digestion and explain why it is an ideal solution for  military bases.

Understanding Anaerobic Digestion

Anaerobic digestion is a biological process in which organic matter, such as food waste and agricultural residues, is broken down by microorganisms in the absence of oxygen. This process results in the production of biogas, a renewable energy source, and nutrient-rich digestate, which can be used as a biofertilizer. Learn more about how it works. 

Benefits of Anaerobic Digestion for Military Bases

1. Energy Independence

One of the primary advantages of anaerobic digestion is its ability to produce biogas, which is primarily composed of methane and carbon dioxide. This biogas can be used as a renewable energy source to generate electricity and heat. Military bases can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and increase their energy independence, making them more resilient in the face of potential energy supply disruptions and self-sufficient in remote locations.

2. Organic Waste Management

Military bases naturally generate organic waste, including food scraps and other biodegradable materials. On-site anaerobic digestion provides a sustainable and efficient method for managing and leveraging this waste onsite. Instead of paying to haul their waste to landfills, where it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, military bases can convert their organic waste into valuable resources like biogas that they can use to provide heat, hot water or electricity for the base, and nutrient-rich biofertilizer that can act as a water replacement for grounds maintenance. Best practices like this not only engender self-sufficiency, but also set a waste management standard for the rest of the country. 

3. Lowered Emissions & Environmental Benefits

By implementing on-site anaerobic digestion systems, military bases can reduce their carbon footprint and decrease their impact on the environment. Biogas produced through anaerobic digestion is a low-carbon energy source, and the process significantly reduces methane emissions from decomposing organic waste in landfills. Additionally, the digestate can replace synthetic fertilizers, which can be harmful to the environment when overused.

According to The White House, the United States plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels in 2030 and achieve a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. By implementing on-site anaerobic digestion, military bases can play a larger role in climate action, helping the United States reach its climate goals. 

4. Resilience and Security

On-site anaerobic digestion systems are decentralized and can operate independently from the grid. This autonomy ensures that military bases can continue to produce their own energy even in the event of power outages or other disruptions. Moreover, reduced waste disposal costs and the use of behind the grid gas contributes to the financial resilience of military bases.

5. Climate Job Creation

The operation and maintenance of anaerobic digestion systems create green job opportunities and educational training within the military community. These systems require monitoring and routine maintenance, contributing to local employment and economic growth. This aligns with the new American Climate Corps program that aims to hire 20,000 people in the first year to support the transition to a zero emissions economy by 2050. 

Case Studies

The West Point Military Academy was awarded $925K by the Department of Defence to pilot an anaerobic digester, which the Army called “an advanced energy security, resilience system.” As stated by the U.S. Army, “As of summer 2023, West Point will house the only full-scale anaerobic co-digester for treatment of organic wastes and energy generation on a DOD installation.” This initiative will reduce waste disposal costs and also decrease reliance on external energy sources.

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Marcus Penner analyzes the gas output of an anaerobic digester at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Readiness Directorate at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., recently. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Burt/Released)

​​The U.S. Air Force has also experimented with anaerobic digestion with the goal of turning food waste into biomethane to be burned for heat or to generate electricity at their bases. "One of the biggest challenges right now at deployed locations is getting rid of waste," said Robert Diltz, :a requirements engineer with AFCEC's Readiness Directorate. “It’s expensive, hazardous and time-consuming to dispose of.” Anaerobic digestion presented an ideal solution. "We achieved more than 44 percent methane which is what we're shooting for," said Air Force Academy cadet Marcus Penner . "That's very successful compared to other tests we've run with a methane yield only in the teens. It's working pretty well."


On-site anaerobic digestion is an ideal solution for US military bases, as it offers numerous benefits, including energy independence, cost-effective waste management, environmental benefits, resilience, educational opportunities and job creation. By harnessing the power of anaerobic digestion, military bases can advance their mission of national security and self-sufficiency while contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future. As they continue to explore and adopt innovative solutions like anaerobic digestion, military bases can set an example for others in their commitment to a greener and more sustainable world.

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