Pantex: Top secret compost

Jun 16, 2014

A compost turner churns Pantex waste paper to begin the composting process.

The Pantex Plant generates tons of paper that has to be destroyed in a manger that protects classified information about the facility’s top-secret nuclear weapons operations.  The material used to go into a landfill because it had to be shredded so finely, it couldn’t be recycled.  Then about 10 years ago, a waster operations employee thought turning the paper into compost would be the perfect solution according to the Amarillo Globe-News.

The idea worked, and today has become standard procedure for the company.

Here’s the process:

  • Documents are collected from boxes across the plant.
  • Then they are transported into disintegrator, a machine that disintegrates them into tiny pieces.
  • The waste paper is shipped to Natural Fertilizer Co. in Wildarado.
  • The paper is mixed with manure at the feedlot site to turn it to compost.
  • The mixture is churned together using a machine built by Scarab International, a White Deer company.
  • The combination is mixed periodically.
  • Heat and bacteria eventually turn the material into organic compost in about six weeks.

Natural Fertilizer is own by Shannon Leavitt.  He says the compost is shipped or famers across the Texas Panhandle, Arkansas, and New Mexico.

Pantex pays Natural Fertilizer about $1,500 a year to take the paper, slightly less than the cost of disposing of it the landfill.

Since the program started in 2003, Pantex has shipped 871 tons of paper to Natural Fertilizer.

Pantex also has taken a series of other steps to reduce paper generation, including using printers that print on both sides of the paper and sending paystubs electronically.