Trash Talk

By Sebastian Sprenger / June 22, 2011 at 4:34 PM

U.S. military forces operating in the war zone in and around Afghanistan generate an estimated 750 metric tons of hazardous trash every year, and the Pentagon is considering a new approach to getting rid of it, according to notice posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website last month.

The amount of hazardous trash is just one little nugget of news buried in the May 18 request for information issued by the Defense Logistics Agency. Another is exactly where the prospective trash collectors would have to pick up the DOD waste: Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and, yes, Pakistan.

Of course, there aren't officially any bases in Pakistan. But the FBO notice says quite explicitly that the place of performance for any contract would be “U.S. military installations” located in the four countries.

American bases in the countries north of Afghanistan are somewhat well-documented. The Pentagon relies on the governments there, many of them oppressive, to allow for the shipment of war supplies through their countries. But the FBO notices mention of Pakistan led us to ask DLA for more information.

“The wording of the FedBizOpps notice incorrectly infers that Pakistan may be a location where wastes are generated,” spokeswoman Michelle McCaskill wrote in an emailed response. “The notice itself is not an acquisition action but is part of an effort to gain a broad understanding of regional commercial disposal or recycling opportunities. The mention of Pakistan was because it is one of the nations in the region which potentially might be a site for compliant disposal of wastes if a contract was let and if the contractor obtained the necessary clearances and permits and met customs requirements.”

DLA officials are pretty clear about the unique circumstances of their new disposal idea. The RFI simply served to identify the feasibility of an actual contract, “given the potential concerns and difficulties expected to be encountered by contractors when performing such a project in this area of operations,” the document reads.