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RAF LAKENHEATH — Despite tremendous growth in the on-base recycling program at the U.S. Air Force’s largest installation in England, the program’s manager still is concerned the base is wasting money and unnecessarily filling British landfills with material that could be recycled.

“Uncle Sam is paying out millions a year to get rid of stuff and it should be coming here,” said Rod Barrett, the British Ministry of Defense employee who manages the recycling center at RAF Lakenheath. “We can do much better still.”

Barrett said the base already recycles an average of roughly 60 tons of waste a month, which translates to more than 700 tons a year. He said that number is a significant increase compared to what the base recycled a decade ago.

“It’s what we’ve built up here,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to get the word out, but there is still a lot of waste around here.”

He estimates the 48th Fighter Wing is currently recycling about 25 percent of what it could.

RAF Mildenhall spends $800 per day for contracted trash removal. Stars and Stripes was unable to obtain similar information from Lakenheath.

Barrett contends a lack of education causes airmen and civilians to discard waste that should be recycled. A mandatory class about recycling for incoming airman, he said, much like the Driving in Britain class, could boost recycling compliance.

Robert Pool, who runs the on-base recycling center at RAF Mildenhall, said the center has also seen dramatic increases in recycling, despite a dip in last year’s total from 2004. In that year, the base recycled 1,150 tons of waste. In 2005, the number dropped to 1,050 tons. The RAF Mildenhall center processed a bit more than 300 tons in 1997.

“Everyone on base should know by now that we have weekly recycling curbside pickup and there’s no excuse not to do it,” Pool said. “Word has gotten out and we’ve seen the results here.”

Both programs are economically self-sufficient in that the money generated by selling recycled waste pays for the other costs involved.

Clothes donated to the RAF Mildenhall recycling center are sold for 50 pounds ($90) a ton to a London-based firm that redistributes them in the Third World, Pool said. Donated toys also go abroad via the Save the Children charity.

Pool, Barrett and their co-workers all are paid by the Ministry of Defense.

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