MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — Since 1997, Japan has enforced the Law for the Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging, which requires consumers to follow sorting guidelines and dispose of their waste in an organized fashion.
As residents in the Japanese community, the air station recognizes the month of April as Environmental Awareness Month, a time when station employees and residents are encouraged to continue taking special care of the environment and community they live in.
The station Environmental Department here put forth an ample amount of effort during the month of April to get the word out to air station community members.
“We started out with awareness bulletins and information booths around the base to advertise the month,” said Chuck Hill, station environmental protection specialist.
As the month carried on, the environmental department geared up for its annual seawall clean-up event to help get members of the air station directly involved.
More than 80 Marines, sailors and station residents did their part to keep the air station clean by gathering trash and debris along the seawall near Penny Lake during an Earth Day celebration here April 22.
Along the seawall where the Nishiki River meets the Iwakuni harbor, station and military volunteers, equipped with trash bags and gloves, spread out to gather as much debris as they could find.
Marines and sailors filled more than 50 large trash bags with plastic bottles, cups, large pieces of plastic foam and various types of trash covered by large amounts of wood and metal objects.
“The cleanup went great,” Hill said. “All the different commands on the air station pitched in for a worthy cause.”
The wood and metal objects were left for the station Facilities Department to clear up and dispose of later.
When the Marines and sailors were done, the Environmental Department and volunteers hosted a barbeque where hotdogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, chips and drinks were served to thank everyone for the hard work put forth.
“It’s important to clean up the seawall because it shows we can be good ambassadors to the community,” said Cpl. Justin Burk, seawall cleanup volunteer. “Even though we’re not technically permanent residents here, we can show we care for the environment which we live in.”
In order to show Marines, sailors and station residents how to be good ambassadors to the Japanese community, the Environmental department encouraged three actions: reduce, reuse and recycle.
“Really, the first rule is to reduce,” said Melanie Bengtson, station environmental director. “People seem to think about recycling all the time, but really the first rule is reduce, then reuse and then, finally, recycle. We would like everyone to think about those three things when they buy things.”
During Environmental Awareness month, the Environmental Department also encouraged people to pay special care to the types of items purchased at the Marine Corps Exchange and Commissary.
“We have green purchasing,” Bengtson said. “It’s a logistics effort. (Station residents) can find out more about what they are going to buy and see if it’s rated as a green product.
There are different criteria for how it’s packaged, what it’s made out of and how much recyclable material is in it and what people can do with it as far as recycling it as opposed to just tossing it out.”
The air station continues to advocate recycling since the implementation of the Qualified Recycling Program, which culminated $202,000 in revenues during fiscal year 2010, an accomplishment expected to increase during this fiscal year.
“We’ve steadily increased (in revenue) over the years,” said Bengtson. “We should have our best year ever this year.”
The QRP recycles cardboard, paper, scrap metals, processed metals and lead acid batteries.
One of the best ways to help the base is also simply to recycle, Hill said. “We want to make sure people are segregating their trash and pulling recyclables out such as aluminum cans, paper and cardboard.”
For years to come, the Environmental Department is slated to continue efforts to raise awareness about the many ways station residents can take care of their environment and experience many returns as their efforts filter back into the air station.