At Misawa’s annual community relations advisory council meetings for the past two years, city officials have raised complaints about off-base garbage disposal by people assigned to Misawa Air Base.

Americans who work at the base but live in the city are required to pay a 1,500-yen-per-month trash collection fee. It’s typically part of their lease agreement, base officials said.

In return, the landlord provides a crow-proof garbage can, and a contractor collects trash twice a week. The contractor even sorts the refuse, saving Americans the hassle in a country with strict recycling rules.

But it seems a few Americans every year dump rubbish in neighborhood garbage disposal sites intended for use by Japanese citizens.

The complaints about improper dumping come from neighborhood associations, said Hiromu Narumi, a military base-relations division official with the city.

Trash left at disposal sites must be in designated bags and sorted properly to be collected. Otherwise, “garbage will be left there forever and neighbors will be troubled,” Narumi said.

Tracing the owners to Americans is done by neighbors checking trash for base shopping receipts or non-Japanese items. If the owner can be identified, the city will advise the violator not to do it again, Narumi said.

With more than 1,300 Misawa personnel living off base and only few complaints, the problem seems to be isolated. But base officials take the issue seriously, said base spokesman Maj. John Redfield, “because it’s part of being a responsible citizen. You’re not supposed to be doing that.”

A neighbor who sees an American improperly dumping trash is asked to tell that person’s landlord, who is to report it to the housing office. It’s then up to an individual’s commander to take corrective action, Redfield said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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