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Combating trash: "Pulverizer" helping to recycle on Kadena

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-03-14

Trying to reduce the amount of waste going to our landfills is also a big concern with the United States Military here on Okinawa. Their efforts are part of a global initiative by the military to try and reduce the amount of negative impact their operations have on the environment. Household trash from the military is sorted and picked up on base, but it is then transported to incinerators and landfills off base. Glass, paper, aluminum, and steel are bought by private Okinawan recycle companies, and then sent to the mainland to be recycled. Because the amount of recycling off base is still very minimal, being able to recycle on base can have positive results for the whole island, while also leading the way in becoming more recycle conscious.

Turning glass into sand, under the direction of the 718th Civil Engineer Squadron, is one of the ways the Kadena Recycling Center is improving their system of recycling. The bright fire engine red machine, known rightfully as the "Pulverizer", is brand new, and came with a price tag of $80,000. It is hoped that the Pulverizer will help to minimize the amount of waste, while at the same time become very cost effective. The "Andela" company, which makes the machine, says their Pulverizer can handle up to 3 tons of glass per hour, and is able to run for long periods of time. This guarantees a high amount of glass recycle capability, enabling the Pulverizer to cover the cost of it's operation, and also potentially bring a return on it's investment.

The machine works by having a system of conveyor belts transport the glass from the loader to the area where the glass is eventually crushed. Glass that is put into the machine no longer needs to be sorted by color, and any caps and labels can be left on. Although the Pulverizer is fairly large in size, the actual part of the machine that does the crushing is a small box containing two small drums, which pulverize the glass into sand. The sand is then sifted, and the end result is both a fine and course grade of sand. The sand can then be used for construction projects and for landscaping purposes on base. The sand has been approved by building inspectors, and its applications range in a wide variety of uses. "Many of our underground pipes are being corroded by the high acidity in the soil here. The sand is going to be used as a barrier for the pipes to help stop the corrosion process. This will help save much money in the long run," explained 718th Civil Engineer Squadron’s MSgt Javier Martinez about one of the sand's planned uses.

The Recycling Center at Kadena has gone through some other changes also. It is now part of Marine MWR's recycle program, which has improved waste collecting methods. It has also begun to try and consolidate the recycling programs of all bases here on Okinawa, which is sure to improve efficiency. The Recycling Center, which used to handle only aluminum, metal, and white paper for recycling, can now also handle composting material, newspapers, cardboard, and colored paper. Although the paper, metal, and aluminum will still be sent off base, the Pulverizer will now recycle glass, and a new composting machine will be grinding up all yard refuse and other wood on base. The composting machine will also help to cut down the amount of refuse needlessly going into landfills, turning grass clippings, tree branches, and soiled paper into organic fertilizing material.

These recent improvements are starting to enable the Kadena Recycling Center to actually do the job it was created for. The personnel of the 718th Civil Engineer Squadron also put in much hard work to clean up the area, and also increase the size of its working space to accommodate the new machines. An increase in information about the Center and recycling, to residents living on Kadena, has also helped to educate people more about recycling and the capabilities of the Kadena Recycling Center.

In addition to the revamping of the recycling facility, special recycling trailers have been approved to be put at different strategic locations around Kadena Air Base. The trailers contain separate bins to help make it easier for residents to separate and dispose of their household waste. And, the Recycling Center still offers it's drop off service at Building 871 for all recyclable items.

It is believed that with the growing need to recycle, United States Military Bases here on Okinawa will be able to meet the challenge of reducing waste going into the 21st Century. MSgt Harold Atkins, Solid Waste Program Manager of the 718th Civil Engineer Squadron, also said, "We must stop thinking of the things we no longer need or use as garbage." Recycling machines and better facilities aside, the real challenge will be getting people to understand Atkins' words of advice.

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