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Liam Thomas (left) and Tristan McKenna fill out their checklist while inspecting a west side tower. The students graded the tower's trash collection area in ten different catagories including the overall cleanliness of the collection area, how well the different sorting containers marked and if there was any recyclable materials in the non-recyclable bins.

Liam Thomas (left) and Tristan McKenna fill out their checklist while inspecting a west side tower. The students graded the tower's trash collection area in ten different catagories including the overall cleanliness of the collection area, how well the different sorting containers marked and if there was any recyclable materials in the non-recyclable bins. (Courtesy of Yokota West Elementary School)

Liam Thomas (left) and Tristan McKenna fill out their checklist while inspecting a west side tower. The students graded the tower's trash collection area in ten different catagories including the overall cleanliness of the collection area, how well the different sorting containers marked and if there was any recyclable materials in the non-recyclable bins.

Liam Thomas (left) and Tristan McKenna fill out their checklist while inspecting a west side tower. The students graded the tower's trash collection area in ten different catagories including the overall cleanliness of the collection area, how well the different sorting containers marked and if there was any recyclable materials in the non-recyclable bins. (Courtesy of Yokota West Elementary School)

Fifth grade students from Yokota West Elementary School tour the Tamagawa Waste Water Treatment Facility.

Fifth grade students from Yokota West Elementary School tour the Tamagawa Waste Water Treatment Facility. (Courtesy of Yokota West Elementary School)

An adult assisting in the inspection picks up a trash bag from the non-recyclable containers and shows the contents to the students. This bag had been sorted and contained recyclable materials but was then placed in the wrong bin.

An adult assisting in the inspection picks up a trash bag from the non-recyclable containers and shows the contents to the students. This bag had been sorted and contained recyclable materials but was then placed in the wrong bin. (Courtesy of Yokota West Elementary School)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Are Yokota residents smarter than fifth-graders?

When it comes to recycling, apparently not.

Students from the three fifth-grade classes at Yokota West Elementary School recently conducted an inspection of the trash collection areas in eight residential towers on Yokota’s west side. What they found shows that Yokota residents are not doing their recycling homework.

The students graded the towers in 10 different areas, including the overall cleanliness of the collection area, how well the different sorting containers are marked and if there was any recyclable materials in the nonrecyclable bins.

The inspection and field trips to Yokota’s trash incinerator and sorting facilities were all part of an Earth Week program designed to teach students about the importance of recycling, said Sara Schmidt, one of the teachers involved in the project.

Heading into the inspection, Schmidt said the classes expected conditions in collection areas to be pretty good and would give out grades of A’s and B’s to the tower residents.

However, Schmidt said, what they found was “really disturbing.”

“The towers were actually pretty bad,” said Denzel DeCaires, 10. “Some of the items were sorted neatly, then placed in the wrong bin.”

Another student, Arlyn Dabney, also 10, said that during the inspection her group saw bottles and cans with liquid still in them in recycling bins.

In Building 3220, Schmidt said, tower residents had placed all of their bags of nonrecyclable trash in the same bin, overloading it, while three other nearly empty bins were right next to it.

Of the eight towers inspected, two received a “B” grade. The students gave the rest D’s and F’s.

But the students aren’t the only ones who think Yokota residents are not making the grade when it comes to recycling.

Yokota residents “are not doing a good enough job” sorting their trash, said Makoto Kimura, from the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Flight.

In October, the base’s recycling program was changed so that glass, plastic and metal items can all be disposed of in the same bag. It began allowing a wider variety of paper products to be turned in.

However, some students think that base residents are still unwilling to sort their trash and recycle.

“Everyone thinks it’s easier to throw things away without sorting them,” said Tristan McKenna, 11.

After the inspection, the students shared their suggestions with the base environmental unit, which Kimura said is working to have the students discuss their findings and ideas to fix the problems with base leaders.

But for now, Arlyn has just one suggestion for Yokota residents: “Don’t waste something that could be recycled, just put things in the right bin.”

Recycling suggestions

Here’s what Yokota West Elementary students had to say:

¶ Base leadership should be strict and impose fines for not recycling.

¶ Distribute flyers and put a sign on every floor of the towers telling residents to recycle.

¶ Make pictures of what should go in bins so it is easier for small children to figure out what goes in each.

¶ Make televised announcements on AFN about the importance of putting trash in the correct container.

¶ Send reusable items to the Airman’s Attic, churches, etc.

¶ Make separate trash chutes for recyclable materials on each floor of the towers.

¶ If the residential units are good about recycling, give them some type of reward.

¶ The base could create a PowerPoint that could be shown such meetings as the newcomer Right Start briefing.

¶ Visit the incinerator and separation facility to see just how much extra work and time has to be spent to separate trash that hasn’t been presorted by residents.

¶ Stop being lazy.

Towers graded

3000 .......... D

3001 .......... B

3002 .......... B

3003 .......... F

3004 .......... D

3005 .......... D

3006 .......... F

3220 .......... F

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