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September 2004

Every Day Can be Earth Day, Even in the Military
by Lance Cpl. Rose A. Muth

Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan— Imagine mounds and mounds of trash piling up in a landfill until one day it gets full leaving no where else to store the garbage. The growing trash problem on military bases in Okinawa, Japan, is overfilling the landfills, but recycling could be a simple solution.

Servicemembers produce more trash than the Okinawans and it’s becoming a growing problem, said Bruce Whisenhunt, recycling director, Marine Corps Community Services Recycling Center, Camp Foster. “The purposes of recycling are to keep as much trash out of the landfill (as we can) and recover important resources that we can sell back to local vendors and save taxpayer dollars,” said Whisenhunt.

Department of Defense directive 4715.4 established a qualified recycling program in accordance with base order 4400.18, which requires all tenants in military family housing to recycle.

“There are millions of dollars spent every year to throw trash away. If we could keep recyclable items out of the trash, we could drastically reduce disposal fees and use the money to buy other things,” Whisenhunt said.

In 2003, Marine Corps Bases, Japan, saved $300,988 by recycling 2,895 tons of trash and 1,600 tons of paper.

“Setting up a recycling program in your home is easy,” Whisenhunt said. “No matter where people are, they can still make a difference.”

Setting up a recycling system in the home or office doesn’t require much work. Set aside an empty trashcan with a label marked “paper,” “cans” or “plastics.” Remove labels and rinse bottles or plastics after they are used, and look for a number one or two on the bottom of the bottle or can.

“Plastic types number one and two are the only type of plastic that we accept. We also accept number six Styrofoam,” Whisenhunt said.

Once material handlers pick up the recycled items from housing and work areas, they take the items to the recycling centers on Camp Foster and Kadena Air Base. The items are then separated into categories and sold to local vendors.

Along with being good for the environment, recycling helps raise money for different units around Okinawa.

“We have ‘recycle wars’ to help raise money for the Marine Corps ball. Whichever unit wins the contest gets to use the prize money for their ball,” Whisenhunt said.

Offices can start a recycling program by calling the recycling center to have bins dropped off, and they can set up a schedule to pick them up. Recycling bins are also available at Direct Support Stock Control.

Recycling requires a little effort from service members and their families to sort out items and peel off labels, but the money saved can be worth the effort.

“Recycling helps taxpayers save money every year but also saves money for the government,” said base recycling center tractor-trailer driver Sean Cohen. “We pay the Okinawans ¥24 for every kilogram that goes to the landfill. We started out with seven landfills, but two have closed because they’re overfilled.”

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