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Tim O'Connell, facilities director of government housing for Naval Support Activity Naples, explains to Naples Elementary School students on Tuesday how the Erreplast recycling plant separates plastics by color.
Tim O'Connell, facilities director of government housing for Naval Support Activity Naples, explains to Naples Elementary School students on Tuesday how the Erreplast recycling plant separates plastics by color. (Sandra Jontz/ S&S)
Tim O'Connell, facilities director of government housing for Naval Support Activity Naples, explains to Naples Elementary School students on Tuesday how the Erreplast recycling plant separates plastics by color.
Tim O'Connell, facilities director of government housing for Naval Support Activity Naples, explains to Naples Elementary School students on Tuesday how the Erreplast recycling plant separates plastics by color. (Sandra Jontz/ S&S)
An employee of the Erreplast recycling plant, just a few miles from the Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, support site base, separates plastics by color. The plant employs 60 people and has operated since 2000.
An employee of the Erreplast recycling plant, just a few miles from the Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, support site base, separates plastics by color. The plant employs 60 people and has operated since 2000. (Sandra Jontz/ S&S)
Naples Elementary School students reach for recycled plastic bits that can be used to make products ranging from plastic bottles and bags to blankets and clothing.
Naples Elementary School students reach for recycled plastic bits that can be used to make products ranging from plastic bottles and bags to blankets and clothing. (Sandra Jontz/ S&S)
Not all the garbage that comes into the Erreplast recycling plant is recyclable. It might not all be garbage, either. This old photograph wound up in the refuse.
Not all the garbage that comes into the Erreplast recycling plant is recyclable. It might not all be garbage, either. This old photograph wound up in the refuse. (Sandra Jontz/ S&S)
Improvising, Hannah Lawton, 11, shows what an in-person tour of the Erreplast recycling plant in Gricignano di Aversa can be like - a little stinky.
Improvising, Hannah Lawton, 11, shows what an in-person tour of the Erreplast recycling plant in Gricignano di Aversa can be like - a little stinky. (Sandra Jontz/ S&S)

GRICIGNANO DI AVERSA, Italy — William Michel had to see it to believe it.

He got his chance Tuesday as he and 17 classmates toured a plastic and aluminum recycling plant a few miles from the Navy support site base.

“I didn’t believe it, but hoped this place really existed,” the 11-year-old Naples Elementary School student said of the Erreplast recycling plant in Gricignano.

The tour debunked for many of the students the assumption that Neapolitans don’t recycle.

“Everyone says Italians aren’t doing it,” teacher Jeff Wood told his gaggle of sixth-graders. “But we need to do our part, too.”

While local governments for several years have invested in containers to collect glass, plastics and metals, it’s only lately that Neapolitans seem to be increasing their recycling efforts.

In December, the city and its suburbs were buried by a trash crisis as haulers, citing overfilled landfills, stopped removing garbage from street bins.

The garbage has been removed from city streets over the past several months as the Italian government has tapped a number of short-term solutions, from opening once-closed local landfills to having Naples’ garbage taken north by train to Germany to be incinerated, or shipped to the Italian islands of Sardinia and Sicily and dropped in landfills.

“I’m hoping to teach them that recycling is worthwhile,” Wood said of his students. “I want to make the kids feel there is hope, and that they can make a difference. I also want to get them angry and frustrated that they are inheriting a planet that is less than it should be.”

Erreplast has operated since 2000 and is equipped to separate and process plastics, which are turned into products such as plastic bottles, shopping bags, and blankets and clothing, marketing director Vincenzo Conte said.

The plant separates aluminum and metal, but sends those products elsewhere for processing. Annually, the plant processes 20,000 tons of plastic.

Emon Collazo, 12, said her family used to recycle when they lived in the States. When they moved to Italy, they didn’t have bins at home to separate plastic from paper, metals and glass.

That’s going to change, she vowed.

“I’m going to ask my mom to buy the bins because this is very important,” she said. “We need to be doing this.”

The students’ visit to the plant coincides with the base’s planned observance of Earth Day on Tuesday. Various bases will be cleaned up and food booths, demonstrations, an art competition and a charity run/walk will be featured, starting at 4 p.m. on the support site.

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