Serious trash talking: Installation commander tackles KMC-wide issue

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Airmen from the 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs office recently had the opportunity to sit down with Brig. Gen. Jon. T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, to discuss the serious issue with irresponsible disposal of trash in Air Force Family Housing areas throughout the Kaiserslautern Military Community.

Below is what he had to say and a few of his observations since taking command six months ago.

Q: Is there a problem with how trash is being disposed of in our family housing areas?

A: Yes there is a problem.  Many of us, to include myself, call base housing our home. Whether that home is on Ramstein, Vogelweh or Landstuhl, we should be proud of our community and its appearance. However, over the last several months, I've noticed a disturbing trend of improper and unauthorized trash dumping within our Military Family Housing areas which is unacceptable. It is apparent that people are disposing of their trash when convenient for the resident, rather than following our community rules. This irresponsible handling includes not waiting to put bulk trash on the curb only the night before collection, but also failing to properly sort, as directed by German law and installation policies. 

Q: What drove wing leadership to take action on this issue and why should people care?

A: This is a good order and discipline issue.   Before moving in, we were all briefed on the rules in our family housing areas, and we must follow them.  This is also a distraction pulling Airmen away from other higher priority duties.  For every piece of bulk trash put out improperly, one of our Airmen has to divert from other important duties to come pick it up.  In addition, this is about caring for each other.  Those who leave our living spaces looking dirty and disorderly are showing they don't care for others in their community. 

Q: What actions are being taken to address the problem?

A: It is clear that our current, and generous, practice of offering bulk trash pickup is being misunderstood as a minimum, and in some cases, abused by those that disregard the known policy.  To make things clear, easy to understand, and simple to enforce, we are going to remove any uncertainty on our policy regarding leaving trash outside the proper receptacles.  Effective 11 Jan 16, there will be no bulk trash pickup in Air Force family housing areas.  So there will be no question as to whether trash can be left outside a receptacle.  It cannot, under any circumstances, after 11 Jan 16.  

Q:  So then what do housing residents do with their trash items that cannot be sorted and fit into the containers provided in family housing areas?

A: The Ramstein or the Vogelweh Recycling Centers have always been, and will continue to be, available for bulk trash disposal.  All trash items which do not fit into the trash enclosures, as well as all electronics and hazardous materials, will be taken to one of the recycle centers.  All biodegradable (yard) waste must be taken to either of the recycling centers or the composting facility at building 64 on Ramstein Air Base. 

Q: Are there any measures being taken to deter offenders?  What happens if someone violates the policy?

A: My first answer is to remind everyone that the cleanliness of our housing areas is a collective responsibility.  We should all care, and if we see someone violating the rules about trash disposal, we should stop them and remind them.  These are our neighborhoods.  Next, we are posting signage at refuse collection points to reinforce the message that dumping is not allowed.  All housing residents will receive a memo regarding the new policy, stairwell living unit leaders will be briefed, and unit commanders will be informed.  We'll get the word out.   But I realize that not everyone listens sometimes.  So in those cases, we've put processes in place to drive personal accountability for those that don't follow the rules.  We'll visually monitor refuse collection points, both with cameras and manned patrols.  We'll use that information to identify offenders.  First offenders will be cited.  A second offense will result in a revocation of housing privileges and a directed move off-base.

Q: What can service members and their families do to fix this issue?

A: Like I said before, this is a problem that we can collectively fix.  Of course, don't be part of the problem yourself.  Know the rules and go to www.ramstein.af.mil if you need more information.  But also don't just look the other way when you see someone leaving trash on the curb.  Remind them about the rules.  Call for help if you see a continuing problem because someone is not listening.  We can do this right, we all just have to take ownership and make it our problem to solve, not someone else's problem to solve.

Well, that sounds pretty clear.  As we enter the new year, make proper disposal of trash a resolution. The installations of the KMC are our communities and homes and there are resources on all installations to enable and empower Airmen and their families to properly take care of them, heeding military regulations and German law.  If you or your family have any questions, call the 786th Civil Engineer Customer Service office at DSN 489-7703 or check out the KMC trash disposal Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/KMCRubbish.