The phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” rings true for the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Healy this week, as they were awarded the CDR Joel Magnussen Innovation Award for Management for their shipboard waste management/recycling program.
“That is what the Innovation Expo is all about…matching what is possible with what is needed,” said CAPT Joseph Re, Chairman of the Coast Guard Innovation Council, at the Innovation Awards ceremony this Thursday.
The Healy, based in Seattle, Wash., developed a shipboard waste management and recycling program that has been so successful that it has not discarded ANY non-sewage waste overboard in over one year!
The program began in response to a problem encountered during long durations underway. Due to the sensitive nature of Healy’s missions, dumping trash overboard was not possible, leaving crew members to store food waste and trash for the length of the trip in large cargo containers.
“Initially, there was no sorting of trash and nothing was recycled,” said CWO3 Sean Lyons. “It was very messy,” Lyons said.
About a year and a half ago, the cutter experienced a catastrophic failure of the incinerator. Unable to burn excess trash, the Healy had a growing and messy problem to solve.
“We had to come up with a better way of managing trash flow on the ship,” said Lyons. “Even though it was perfectly legal to dump trash overboard, we wanted to lead by example,” he said.
The Healy set about solving the problem by breaking down recycling into sections and developed a checklist of things they needed to do in order to recycle underway and what they could dispose of back in port in Seattle. Any trash not recycled gets compacted and the wet waste (food, etc) is put through an industrial grinder and put into the grey water system and pumped overboard.
“The result was a better separation of trash overall,” said Lyons. “Now we actually sell recycled metals and continue to find new things we can recycle. Seattle is very recycling friendly,” Lyons said.
This innovation has made a big impact for the Healy and is a best practice that can be duplicated service-wide. Bravo Zulu and Semper Paratus to the crew of the Healy for its innovative approach to solving a problem and being good stewards of our environment.
Congratulations also to the other winners of the 2009 Captain Niels P. Thomsen Innovation Awards. The Science and Technology winners were ANT South Portland, Me., for their Carmanah Field Testing Unit and cutter Bertholf for their Voice over IP (VOIP) in WMSL Staterooms Initiative. The Operations or Readiness winner was LANTArea for their Marine Transportation System Common Assessment and Reporting Tool (CART). The winner for Administration, Training or Support was the Maintenance and Logistics Command, Atlantic for their depot level Engineering Specification Compiler.
The awards were held on Thursday at the Ninth Annual Coast Guard Innovation Exposition (Expo 2009) held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, Virginia Beach, VA, Nov. 17-19, 2009. The theme for Innovation Expo 2009 was, Innovation Inside – Opportunities Amidst Change.