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Recycle, save the environment

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Saving the environment seems to be on the forefront of everyone's mind. Al Gore, won the Nobel Peace Prize with his "An Inconvenient Truth" film, and Leonardo DiCaprio produced a film called "The 11th Hour" in hopes of making people aware of the impact they have on the environment. 

Kadena housing residents have been doing their part in protecting the environment and reducing waste by participating in the base recycling program. 

"It's a challenge but overall we're doing a lot better," said Jon Hayashi, 718th Civil Engineer Squadron Recycling Program manager. "People are more aware of the need to recycle. Our number one goal is to reduce our trash costs. We're spending roughly $5 million per year. It could go up Leo Yozak, with Kadena's recycling center, works to separate plastic bottles from a large shipment of recycling materials Jan. 16. The center accepts plastic, Styrofoam, glass, aluminum and other materials from Kadena Air Base for the wing recycling program. to as much as $6 million." 

Mr. Hayashi said Kadena's rates are increasing because of the landfill issues. With Okinawa being a very small island landfills are very scarce. He said Kadena has been using two of the seven available landfills for the past 40 years. 

On Okinawa it cost an average of $300 per ton of trash per year, whereas, in the United States it only cost $30 per ton. Base residents can reduce this amount by recycling as much as possible and help minimize the disposal on landfills. 

"Until now, we haven't been separating our trash as much," Mr. Hayashi said. "That is a cost increase because we have to use a contractor to separate the trash for us. The more we separate and sort out the recyclables, the less it will cost the base." 

Japanese law states that everyone is responsible for separating their trash. It is also a U.S. public law which states U.S. military members and their families are supposed to recycle as much as they can while living overseas. The Air Force also has a mandate of recycling at least 40 percent of trash on installations. 

"It's a wing policy that we must recycle," Mr. Hayashi said. "It's a Department of Defense directive telling us we have to do it also. So a lot of people are telling us that we need to reduce our waste." 

Recyclables are separated into the following categories: scrap metal, cardboard, plastics, paper and glass. Residents should bag these items, with the exception of scrap metal, and have them out by the curbside for pick up on their designated recycle day. 

Cardboard and newspapers should be flattened and plastics and cans should be put in separate bags. Anything that is not considered recyclable should be put in the trash. Also, residents are asked to remove plastic caps off water and soda bottles and rinse out cans. 

Mr. Hayashi said when it comes to plastic water bottles, it's important to remove the caps and put them in the trash because the recycle center staff crushes them into blocks and sometimes the caps shoot out like champagne corks which can be a safety hazard. He also said people are not required to remove the labels from the plastic bottles and cans; however, it's a good idea to do so. 

"As far as cans go, the reason we bring that up is because sometimes you have soda and food items, and if people are not rinsing them out, it becomes real ugly," Mr. Hayashi said. "We give tours at the recycling center to military leadership and even school-age children. If they see bugs and rodents in the recycling center it becomes an unsanitary and unhealthy issue for us so we're hoping housing residents will help us with that." 

Housing residents should also rinse detergent bottles, since water and detergent; can cause the floors of the recycling center to become slippery, possibly creating a hazardous environment. 

Recycling glass and green waste are handled differently than the others. With a new glass crusher recently installed at the recycling center, glass is ground into bits as small as sand and used as back filling at construction sites and for holes that construction crews dug up around base. 

"Instead of buying sand, we just use the crushed glass," Mr. Hayashi said. "We also use it in sandbags. It saves disposal costs -- 750 tons would cost us more than $250,000 per year." 

Disposing of green waste would cost the base nearly $600,000 per year. So the recycling center purchased grinders to turn green waste into mulch and top soil and compost base residents. 

Many people aren't aware of the recycling process on base. From curbside to the recycling center, there is a process. Sorters will pull out recycling materials from trash and sort them into different categories. Glass is crushed into sand, scrap metal is formed into blocks and sold in local markets, and plastics are recycled into other materials such as fuel or even Frisbees. Also, cooking oil is turned into bio-diesel fuel and soap. Cardboard is also sold to China and even mainland Japan which they in turn make into packing paper. 

"All these recyclables will save us long-term in trash costs," said Mr. Hayashi. "If we threw everything in the trash and the contractor picks it up, he's making money on recyclable material plus the money he makes from us which is nearly $5 million. If we recycle we can reduce costs to $3 million. We can save the base up to $2 million in costs." 

Mr. Hayashi said it's important to be good stewards to the Okinawa community and the environment and recycling is just one of the ways to do so. 

"We want to show the local population that we're doing everything we can to help them with this problem," Mr. Hayashi said. "It's not about getting residents to recycle; it's about getting them to recycle more."