Trash Talk: Recycling on and off installations

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ariel Leighty
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Germany leads the world in recycling, peaking at 70 percent waste being recycled and reused in recent years. To put that into perspective, the U.S. only recovers about 33 percent annually.

When moving to Germany, recycling is a habit to which some U.S. citizens have a difficult time adjusting.

Tomas Weber, 86th Civil Engineer Squadron, environmental protection specialist, said some recurring disposal issues include residents not waiting to put bulk trash on the curb the night before collection and failing to properly sort recyclables and trash as directed by German law and installation policies.

The U.S. government spends nine million euro every year on recycling and trash-removal contracts and penalties due to service members and families not adhering to the host nation’s recycling laws and improper waste dumping.

German law requires recycling of paper products, plastics, metals, petroleum products, batteries, tires, wood pallets, empty toner cartridges, furniture, used clothing, and shoes.

But deciding to recycle is just the first step; the individual will also want to make sure the items are recycled correctly.

According to Waste Management, an American trash collecting company, the average recycling contamination rate, or incorrect disposal of recyclables, is 25 percent. This means one in four items thrown in a recycling bin isn’t recyclable and these American recycling habits follow us when traveling to other countries.

When items are not properly separated, recycling contractors will be turned away at landfills and the U.S. government is then required to pay fines.

The Kaiserslautern Military Community has recycling centers located at building 5146 on Ramstein and building 2821 on Vogelweh, which accepts all types of recyclables generated on base. Residents living off base may utilize the bases’ recycling centers for disposal of household hazardous waste.

Following the set policy for recycling will not only save the government money, but will also prevent additional spending of taxpayers’ dollars.

The 786th CES would like to make proper disposal of trash a New Year’s resolution. 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 CE office at 489-7703.