Sept 13, 2013 -- CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa - Twenty dedicated and environmentally conscious employees work tirelessly at the Recycling Center to sort through all recycling from Marine Corps installations on Okinawa.
They diligently sort through bottles, cans and glass, and separate colored paper, white paper and cardboard day in and day out.
The center’s mission is to reduce the amount of solid waste deposited in landfills by Marine Corps Installations Pacific, as well as help service members meet the guidelines and orders set forth by the Marine Corps, according to Brittney E. Le Tran, Recycling Center supervisor with G-F, Facilities, Environmental Affairs Branch, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, MCIPAC.
Marine Corps order requires Marines to respect and maintain the natural resources entrusted to them by following recycling and waste management guidelines, according to MCO P5090.2A.
In Fiscal Year 2010, approximately 4,150 tons of recyclables were collected. In FY 2012, that number had increased to approximately 11,000 tons and this number could continue to increase significantly if service members apply a few simple tips and are diligent in ensuring that recycling and refuse are separated.
“It’s little things like using clear plastic to bag the recyclables, separating colored paper from white and plastic bottles from cans and glass, and not putting organic materials in recycle bins,” said Le Tran. “There are signs posted on every base, in every building. If (a Marine) ever gets confused they can reference the posted guidelines.”
In FY 2012, the total percentage of waste sent to the recycling center as opposed to disposal as waste in land fills was over 54 percent, up from 46.97 percent in FY 2011.
“In accordance with the order, we work under a quality recycling program,” said Kahoru Takushi, the Total Waste Management Section director, MCB Smedley D. Butler. “We (sell) the recycled commodities to the local market. The money we make goes back into the QRP process. It pays the workers’ salaries, buys the supplies, and pays for the upkeep of the vehicles. It is a very unique, self-sustaining process.”
The process helped generate approximately one million dollars in revenues in fiscal year 2012 and, as of June of FY 2013, approximately $640,000.00 was generated in revenues.
While the revenue increase is good for the center, the true value is how much a positive impact it has on landfills on island.
When recycling gets mixed with waste, it goes to a landfill, according to Sean D. Cohen, the warehouse work leader, MCB Smedley D. Butler. As guests on Okinawa, we should not want to add to the local landfills and instead should take pride in making sure we don’t create unnecessary waste.
The center encourages everyone to take care when separating their trash and recyclables.
“Marines can help out by simply staying aware,” said Le Tran. “The Marines are excellent about separating the recycling and placing it in the proper containers at the offices, but they need to apply the same care at their barracks and homes.”
The center has machines to complete the recycling processes, including one that takes cans and separates them by metal type, one that sorts through spent shell casings from ranges throughout Japan, and the largest military-contracted paper shredder on the island.
The center’s employees are advocates for individual environmental responsibility and firm believers in the importance of their work.
“It gives you a good feeling to know that you’re helping keep your (base) clean,” said Yoa Espinosa, a materials handler with the center. “All you need to do is care and be aware; care about where you live and be aware of how you can contribute.”