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Naha moves to start recycling

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-02-21

The Okinawan Prefectural Government has slowly started to realize the need to cut back on our amount of trash being disposed into landfills. The government spent approximately 1,450,000,000 in 1995 to construct a state of the art recycling center, which many environmentalists hope will be the start of a major recycling movement in Okinawa. The center, which has some of the latest technology in equipment, is the first of it's kind in Okinawa. Located in Naha, it presently only handles about 5% of the total amount of trash, but it offers both citizens and the government a chance to realize the potential behind recycling.

Garbage trucks come in and out , first stopping at the entrance, where they are weighed on a large computerized scale. They proceed into the facility where they reach the unloading point. The trash then goes through a system of conveyor belts bringing it through several machines and separating areas. One machine rips through any plastic bags to empty the contents. The first job is to separate all the plastic, cardboard, and other materials off of the belt, which is done by hand. A large magnet then picks up all the steel and metal, where it is then compressed and sold to private recycling companies. The last remaining material is glass, which is then separated by color, before it goes on to be recycled. The already separated cardboard, paper, and clothing are also recycled.

Research and development of new methods to recycle glass, rubber, and steel have also produced techniques, which can utilize discarded steel to be turned into rebar for construction projects, and crushed glass is mixed with cement in place of ballast.

The whole building is also set up for the general public to be able to come and view the process through glass windows, which surround the busy machines and conveyor belts. Schools bring classes of students in regularly for tours through the center, where children can learn about the importance of recycling and how the facility operates.

The fourth floor of the building is busy with staff and volunteers sorting clothing, books, and videos that can still be used, which are then given away. Handicrafts are also made with other discarded material. There is also a classroom on this floor, which is used for education in recycling. Citizens, organizations, and housewives can come for recycling classes, where they learn about things they can do at home to help decrease the amount of trash from households.

Although most of the recyclable material will be shipped to the mainland after being sold to private companies, there are a few companies that recycle here on Okinawa. "Toyo Jitsugyo" in Ginowan and "Showa Seishi" in Gushikawa both recycle paper products into toilet paper, which is sold here locally. Other companies such as "Fuji Sangyo" in Naha collect cardboard, paper, and scrap metal to sell to recycling companies in the mainland. However, the price of steel aluminum and paper constantly fluctuate, making the recycling business very competitive.

The new recycling center is a start in the right direction, but there are still some problems that need to be worked out. It needs to increase it's present operational capacity to become economically viable, and there needs to be better coordination with recycling companies. Also, more experts in the private sector need to be consulted with, by the government, in order to produce a more efficient recycling program. The public and private sectors need to cooperate with each other to make recycling economical for everyone if it is to be widely accepted. Only then, will it start to have an impact on the problem of garbage disposal.

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