US military generates largest amount of garbage yet: 2.6 tons, a 11% increase and 1.8 times that generated by Okinawans

March 16, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

In fiscal 2015, 26,332 tons of ordinary waste was generated on U.S. bases in Okinawa, a 11.4% increase year on year. This was the first time that the amount of generated garbage exceeded 26,000 tons since fiscal 2010, and the largest amount of garbage generated in the past five years.

Because the U.S. military does not publicly announce the amount of garbage it generates per fiscal year, the Okinawa prefectural government arrived at the above figure through interviews with representatives at waste management facilities and the like. Of ordinary waste generated by the U.S. military in fiscal 2015, 6,500 tons (24.7%) was recycled, and 19,832 tons was disposed of by incineration or in a landfill.

Because the U.S. military stopped publicly announcing the number of military personnel, contractors and dependents after June 2011, the amount of waste generated per capita is unclear. In 2011, the total number of U.S. military personnel, contractors and dependents was 47,300. The numbers have likely changed over the years, making a direct comparison difficult, but if daily per capita waste generated in fiscal 2015 were calculated on the basis of the 2011 figure, it would come to 1,525 grams, which is 1.8 times the daily waste generated per capita by Okinawans in fiscal 2014 (844 grams).

In Okinawa, different cities, towns and villages each have their own stipulated method for separating garbage, but as a result of the exclusive jurisdiction set forth in Article 3 of the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, Japanese laws and regulations do not apply on U.S. bases in Japan. The U.S.
Department of Defense has an environmental management program in place at all overseas U.S. bases that requires consideration be paid to the environment, but numerical trends show that the program is not having an effect.

A representative of a waste disposal facility in Okinawa that takes in U.S. military garbage said that the facility is contractually prohibited from publicizing any details, but admitted that “waste from the bases is hardly separated at all, and we separate it at the facility.” An official from the prefectural government’s Department of Environmental Affairs said that waste disposal sites in Okinawa are at full capacity and stated, “We will continue calling for the U.S. government to establish waste incineration facilities or the like under its own responsibility.”

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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