News: Recycling keeps the machine green
Story by Cpl. Kenneth Trotter
IWAKUNI, Japan - “Recycle, reduce, reuse and close the loop!”
Some people may remember this catchy jingle from the early ‘90s in the nation’s ongoing attempt to increase environmental and recycling awareness. For the station recycling center workers, that phrase still serves as their motto and rallying cry.
“You always have the three steps of recycling – reduce, reuse, recycle,” said Ryan Leming, station solid-waste manager. “It works if you use that in your daily activities.”
The recycling center sits east of the Sakura Theater and between permanent and Unit Deployment Program squadrons near the flightline. It is here where the job of processing and separating the station’s recyclables takes place.
Though all three aspects of recycling are important, there is a reason reduce comes first in the saying.
“Reduce is first because if you can reduce something, you don’t have to worry about it,” said Leming. “Reuse is second. If I can take anything that is in its original state from someone and give it to someone else, then that’s the second step. It’s not waste. So, actually, reuse is reduction and it’s also recycling. It’s just a big circle.”
Aspiring environmentalists living in the barracks may feel they are at a disadvantage when it comes to recycling, as the center is some distance away, but not to worry. Segregation is also an integral part of the process. As residents sort through their garbage, they take an account of what they are and are not recycling.
“If you live in the barracks, you don’t need to recycle,” said Leming. “What you need to do is segregate (your trash). We’ve set it up to where the trash contractor brings us the recyclables; aluminum, steel cans and stuff like that.”
Segregating trash not only makes it easier on the recycle center, but it also helps the Marine Corps in the long run.
“The main way to save the station money is to segregate between your materials, combustible and noncombustible,” said Leming. “If you can segregate those, they get turned into us. Even if you don’t, (Japanese contractors) do segregate the trash for us. It helps the contractor immensely. Then you have your clean paper items, which are not pizza boxes, by the way.”
Any paper or cardboard items which come into contact with food substances are automatically not allowed. However the more important item to segregate is glass.
“If I could get everyone on base to segregate glass alone and put that in a separate bag, we could reduce the cost of the contract by a significant amount,” said Leming.
Though trash is not necessarily what they deal in, the possibility of encountering something intended as trash is always there.
“A typical workday is ‘expect the unexpected,’ because we never know what we’re going to get,” said Leming.
Throughout that typical workday, the workers set about gathering recyclables that are left in front of the recycling center, crushing cans, shredding papers and baling cardboard, which is done with the aid of industrial-strength equipment.
The mindset of recycling is also one many may not have been exposed to at a younger age.
“We all come from different areas. Some places were big on recycling, some didn’t have anything,” said Leming. “I grew up with one trash can in the house. That’s just the way it was.”
Recycling is always important. It helps cut down on unnecessary waste and spending and helps in efficiency. With the recycling center always looking for ways to help be more efficient, station residents can play a part in that simple three-step process.