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A Japanese worker compacts garbage Friday at the Recycling and Incinerator Plant on Yokota Air Base, Japan. In 2005, the facility handled more than 9,000 tons of waste generated by base servicemembers, civilians and their families.
A Japanese worker compacts garbage Friday at the Recycling and Incinerator Plant on Yokota Air Base, Japan. In 2005, the facility handled more than 9,000 tons of waste generated by base servicemembers, civilians and their families. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
A Japanese worker compacts garbage Friday at the Recycling and Incinerator Plant on Yokota Air Base, Japan. In 2005, the facility handled more than 9,000 tons of waste generated by base servicemembers, civilians and their families.
A Japanese worker compacts garbage Friday at the Recycling and Incinerator Plant on Yokota Air Base, Japan. In 2005, the facility handled more than 9,000 tons of waste generated by base servicemembers, civilians and their families. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Aluminum and metal cans are crushed into cubes Friday at the Recycling and Incinerator Plant on Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Aluminum and metal cans are crushed into cubes Friday at the Recycling and Incinerator Plant on Yokota Air Base, Japan. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Don’t like separating your trash?

The process isn’t just rubbish, base environmental officials say.

Yokota has a mandatory recycling program, with residents and employees required to conduct “minimum sorting” of garbage in marked bins and Dumpsters at apartment towers, garden housing units and work areas.

That ultimately reduces operating expenses at the base’s Recycling and Incinerator Plant, which handled more than 9,000 tons of waste in 2005.

The base hires Japanese contractors to collect, dispose of and burn all trash generated by Yokota, the Tama Hills Recreation Area and two communications sites.

Officials are accepting bids for renewal of a five-year contract to start in fiscal 2007.

They wouldn’t reveal how much is spent annually on garbage disposal, saying it could affect negotiations.

But costs are lower with presorting, said Yuki Inoue, the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron’s pollution prevention manager.

“We show how much we’ve been sorting,” she said Friday. “If people don’t sort, it could affect costs because the contractors will have to do more work. So recycling is not only an environmental necessity but also cost effective.”

Yokota planned to mark Earth Day on Saturday by setting up information booths and displays from elementary and middle school students at the Yokota Community Center.

Under Japan Environmental Governing Standards, each U.S. military base must maintain a recycling and incinerator plant.

Inoue said JEGS combines U.S. and Japanese regulations with Environmental Protection Agency and host-nation standards frequently serving as guidelines. They cover issues including solid waste, drinking water, air emissions, hazardous material and noise.

Trash segregation within workplaces and residential areas is broken down into recyclables, paper products and non-recyclables.

Yokota also manages a household hazardous waste program not regulated by JEGS but designed to keep products such as fluorescent bulbs, paint, cleaning materials, pesticides, batteries and propane tanks out of the primary garbage stream. There are various collection points around base.

The Yokota Recycling and Incinerator Plant features an intricate web of conveyor belts, sorting areas and compactors.

Some items can be salvaged for recycling, others are hauled to off-base landfills and the rest is burned in one of two furnaces.

The other is a designated backup.

Identifying burnable and nonburnable items is the facility’s main purpose, Inoue said. Glass bottles are separated by color — making them easier to recycle — while aluminum and other metal cans are lumped together.

Air sampling is done on a regular basis to ensure emissions, dust and dioxin levels are within safe standards, she added.

Inoue said individuals do make a difference.

“Minimum sorting of trash is very helpful,” she added. “Recycling, of course, brings an environmental solution not to release any toxic material into the air, land and water. Each person can do their part. That way, we can conserve nature and it’s cost effective for us.”

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