Dad, where does our trash go and do we recycle correctly?
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Green phantoms dash about Misawa Air Base, sometimes found in plain sight other times lurking behind buildings; their only mission is to take your trash and recyclables far away, but where?
The phantoms are actually what the Japanese call trash cars, and they visit the base several times a day. These cars take the bases trash and recyclables to the Hosoya Disposal Site located in Misawa City.
However, there's a problem, which is costing the base hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
"It's sad to see what comes out of the recycle car," said Kasumi Yamazaki, Hosoya Disposal Site assistant manager. "Everything is mixed together; what I see as valuable recyclables the Americans may not. Sometimes I wonder if it's a cultural difference or a need for more recycling education."
This isn't the worst part, sometimes the recyclables are mixed with food and pet waste, Yamazaki added.
According to the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron's recycling chart, recyclable items need to be separated and placed into individual clear bags. Items such as plastic should be placed with plastic and so on. Items should not be mixed together.
"We always get mixed garbage," said Haruhito Ishixuka, Hosoya Disposal Site Misawa Air Base trash manager. "It takes extra time to sort the base's trash and recyclables."
When the disposal site's costs rise, these costs are passed on to the customer. This is evident in the disposal sites billing procedures with the base.
"When we need to increase our labor to sort the base's trash it costs us money," said Ishixuka. "This cost is reflected in what we charge the base, and sometimes we still can't sort it all."
When the disposal site gets overwhelmed, it has only one alternative.
"We push everything into the incinerator," said Ishixuka. "Sometimes, upwards of 70 percent of the recyclables we receive go into the incinerator, because it's too difficult to sort."
However, this negative trend can be reversed.
"If we [residents of Misawa Air Base] get the information and follow it, we can make some real savings," said Hajime Sasaki, 35 CES solid waste manager.
Through recycling, the base can save 60 percent on trash disposal, which equals approximately $300,000 a year. This money can go back into the base for more morale, welfare and recreation events and facilities, added Hajime.
For more information about recycling and protecting the environment, visit www.misawa.af.mil/Misawa's Environmental Management.