[Regarding "Burning question" (article, Nov. 6), about the military’s use of burn pits to dispose of trash and other waste]: There are a couple of issues here. One is a complete lack of protection for our human resources on bases (not to mention the detrimental long-term effects to the local population). The other is related to why this is such a pervasive problem.
Comparing [this tour] with my first tour in Baghdad in 2003-04, I can attest that the air pollution problem has gotten much worse, due to the massive amounts of one-use, nonrecycled plastics and water bottles generated by the tons each day.
There are three dining facilities at Camp Speicher, and one dining hall restricts patrons to using plastic everything (utensils, plates, cups, bowls, bottles and wrappers). The lack of washable utensils and the lack of incentives to encourage their use result in the policy to "hide the evidence" and reduce landfill space by nonstop burning — which often gets out of control during spring and summer.
The military must figure out a way to reduce waste. Effective ads run on American Forces Network encouraging safety and ways to prevent suicide, but very little is conveyed on how waste thrown away [and burned] creates chemical-laden fumes that can cause lung disease.
Many of my buddies switched to real silverware when they learned that the plastic set of three utensils (of which the fork is often the only one used) and other plastic ware end up in the dump and is burned in huge, polluting plumes. Plastics are made with petrochemicals and use substantial amounts of energy in their production, and also have to be constantly shipped via plane and truck. Reusable water bottles and washable utensils should be a top priority for all the armed forces.
Staff Sgt. Van BerryCamp Speicher, Iraq