WIESBADEN, Germany - What would encourage more housing residents to properly separate and recycle their refuse' That's what garrison leaders asked community members during three days of focus groups at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center March 24-26.

With the high cost of sanitation removal (roughly $2 million a year in U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden) and the potential for saving a good chunk of that if more people took the time to correctly separate their trash, focus group leaders said it is in everyone's interest to ensure compliance for financial, sanitary and hygienic reasons.

"We found from the focus groups that people think the system in place is OK," said Peter Zeisberger, solid waste manager for the Directorate of Public Works' Operations and Management Division, "but it's not used properly."

The primary recommendation, Zeisberger said, was that better awareness through more information was needed. "We need to find a better means of providing information."

Other suggestions included more professional handouts, better educating the building coordinators so that they in turn can inform building residents, providing some means of enforcement and positive reinforcement, and improved labeling and signage.

"When I first got here there was no awareness," remarked one attendee, adding that more enforcement and better education as to what the standards are were ways to improve the system. "It needs to be put out to every Soldier and his or her family. And it needs to be enforced."

Focus group members also said having positive reinforcement such as rewarding the best building recycling effort with a barbecue or having a yard of the month would "start instilling a sense of pride in the community."

"The vast majority is just laziness," observed one attendee, saying that because families often rely on their children to take out the trash, sometimes children fail to properly deposit their refuse in the correct containers.

Bulk trash
Having a clearly marked, designated area for bulk trash was another recommendation.

Zeisberger said focus group organizers were surprised that not one focus group member recommended a different setup, which, he added, would cost about $1.2 million to put in place. "They said the current setup is quite convenient. I thought that 50 percent of the people would say they needed bigger bins, but I was surprised that not one person said that."

What residents did recommend was providing clearer, more visible instructions (in stairwells, on bins and at recycling points), doing away with keys for the individual trash bins and better information about refuse and bulk trash pickup dates.

"One of our first efforts will be to produce a short, up-to-speed recycling guide in conjunction with the pickup schedule," said Camille Howes, USAG Wiesbaden Customer Management Services program manager. "Ideally, it will be given to building coordinators and posted in the stairwells."

Follow-on efforts will include better signage at the recycling accumulation points, better labeling of the containers and more awareness through inprocessing and other community information channels.

A follow-up refuse and recycling survey for on-post housing residents is currently being conducted. A link to the "Recycling Survey" is available on the USAG Wiesbaden website at www.wiesbaden.army.mil. Both paper and online versions will be available.

Zeisberger added that community members do not need to wait for bulk trash pickup days to get rid of bulk trash. It can be taken to the Wiesbaden Army Airfield Recycling Yard located between Building 1036 (aviation hangar) and the Directorate of Public Works or to the Self-Help Issue Point in Hainerberg Housing (Mississippi Str. 3, Building 7802). Hazardous waste such as paint and batteries can also be dropped off at the Self-Help Issue Point in Hainerberg.

For more information about recycling and refuse separation visit the garrison's website at www.wiesbaden.army.mil and click on the "Recycling Guide" link on the bottom right side of the home page.