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Taking out the trash - the right way!

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-08-20

For a small island like Okinawa the problem of how to dispose of solid waste can be overwhelming. The dilemma is compounded by the fact that there is no enforced prefectural ordinance for trash disposal - each one of the local municipality governments is responsible for handling trash disposal within their own area.

Larger cities with bigger budgets are able to subsidize the costs for trash separation and recycling, but smaller communities find it more difficult to find solutions for properly handling solid waste.

In districts such as Onna-son, where its beaches attract a large amount of tourists and visitors from outside of the area, trash disposal can become very costly; the extra trash brought into its own boundaries must be properly disposed of and paid for by local city taxes. In order to help better manage waste disposal, the Environmental Branch of the United States Marine Corps is asking all military personnel residing off-base to comply with the rules set for the separation of solid waste by each local village, town, and city on Okinawa.

According to Maiko Toriyama, an Environmental Engineer working for the USMC, most of the municipal governments do not have information printed in English about the correct disposal and separation of trash, which has caused some problems in communities with a large amount of military families.

To help American residents understand the regulations set forth by each district, the Marine Corps Environmental Branch has compiled a report covering the correct disposal methods for each municipality. Toriyama explained that the information will be given to all real estate and housing agencies both on and off base, who deal with American customers.

Because Americans in the military are not required to pay local city taxes, trash collection must be paid for by contracting with a disposal company. Military personnel can ask their real estate agent to include the fee in their monthly rental payments. Large items, however, such as refrigerators and furniture will usually cost an extra charge for disposal. (If you are married to a local national and you have registered your residency with the city hall, solid-waste disposal is free.)

Although separation methods vary from town to town, most communities require you to separate trash into at least two different categories: combustible and non-combustibles. In some cities, such as Naha, trash segregation is broken down into five different categories. Other areas require you to purchase special trash bags.

In Chatan, items considered to be combustible are: food waste, paper products, fabric, grass cuttings, yard debris, and plastics. Non-combustibles include: cans, bottles, glass, small electrical appliances, metal materials, and spray cans. Recyclable materials consist of newspapers, magazines, cardboard, and milk cartons. All glass bottles, aluminum, and steel cans are also recyclable. (When putting out paper items to be recycled, they should be separated into each category, bundled, and tied with string. (Paper products such as carbon paper, photographs, and envelopes containing plastic can not be recycled.)

The U.S. Marine Corps Environmental Branch wants to make it clear to off-base military residents that each city and town has its own rules for trash segregation. "It's the responsibility of the residents to correctly segregate solid-waste, and not the collector's," explained Toriyama. "We all need to cooperate."

For further information on trash disposal within your community, please contact your real estate agent for details.

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