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The yellow notices are warnings on unsorted trash left by residents of the City of Yokosuka. The city and Yokosuka Naval base officials made a recent push to educate Naval personnel living off-base on the proper way to dispose of trash.
The yellow notices are warnings on unsorted trash left by residents of the City of Yokosuka. The city and Yokosuka Naval base officials made a recent push to educate Naval personnel living off-base on the proper way to dispose of trash. (Courtesy of the City of Yokosuka)
The yellow notices are warnings on unsorted trash left by residents of the City of Yokosuka. The city and Yokosuka Naval base officials made a recent push to educate Naval personnel living off-base on the proper way to dispose of trash.
The yellow notices are warnings on unsorted trash left by residents of the City of Yokosuka. The city and Yokosuka Naval base officials made a recent push to educate Naval personnel living off-base on the proper way to dispose of trash. (Courtesy of the City of Yokosuka)
Yokosuka Naval Base housing counselor Alice Yano thumbs through some recent pictures of illegal garbage dumping in the City of Yokosuka.
Yokosuka Naval Base housing counselor Alice Yano thumbs through some recent pictures of illegal garbage dumping in the City of Yokosuka. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Some U.S. Navy folks are old hands at recycling. Others think the heap of rules regulating off-base garbage disposal in Japan stinks, said Chiho Asano, supervisory housing manager at Yokosuka’s Family Housing Welcome Center.

“Some Navy people ask, ‘Why do we have to separate this in so many ways?’” Asano said. “Others are used to it.”

Either way, keeping Navy personnel from trashing their neighborhoods is the aim of several new programs at Yokosuka Naval Base and in Navy host communities, as most Japanese cities ask residents to separate garbage into categories such as “burnable,” “nonburnable,” “cans,” “plastic bottles” and “paper and fabrics.”

“Japan — with its limited space — wants to recycle as much garbage as it can,” said Ikego and Negishi Housing manager Chris Churchill. “This is why they incorporated more strict recycling laws. It’s our part as ambassadors for the United States to abide by the rules set out by the Japanese government.”

Not following the laws can mean fines up to $100,000 and up to five years in jail. Two Navy sailors were arrested Jan. 10 in Zushi for illegally dumping residential trash. The arrests have been referred to the Yokohama District Prosecutor’s Office.

Not separating garbage causes trouble for other residents, said Yoji Sato, Yokosuka City’s Waste Guidance Division official. Yokosuka residents take turns cleaning garbage collection sites in their area. Garbage that is not properly sorted is not collected, and eventually those residents have to clean it up, Sato said.

“We just want people to be aware and be cooperative,” Sato said.

On base, “trash talk” is being incorporated into mandatory area indoctrination and briefings on permanent change of station and housing. A 500-item instruction spreadsheet is on the base Web site: http://housing.cnfj.navy.mil. Stocking recycling-friendly bags at the Navy Exchange also is being discussed, Asano said. The base and the city are working on public service announcements to be shown before movies at on-base theaters explaining how to separate and dump garbage, said Sato.

Cities near the base are translating their garbage guides and adding English-speaking staff to their sanitation departments.

The city of Yokosuka met with base officials in mid-January to discuss strategies for getting people to dispose of trash properly. It added an English-speaking person to field questions about trash separation. The city also will pick up bulky items for Navy families making a permanent change of station. Yokohama translated its garbage guide after meeting with base officials last year.

Sato said the number of cases of garbage not being separated properly has declined recently with the efforts by the Navy and the city.

“The cities used to be more lenient — they used to let things go. Now they are getting stricter,” Asano said.

But it’s a tough learning curve for Americans and Japanese alike.

“There are a lot of rules, and even Japanese people get confused,” he said.

Hana Kusumoto contributed to this story.

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