GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Since 1999 the recycling center at the Grafenwoehr Training Area (GTA) has served to collect and transfer all waste products from Grafenwoehr, Rose Barracks, Garmisch and Hohenfels. Although the center has vastly decreased the U.S. military impact on the environment, the efficiency of this program is dependent upon Soldiers and their Families’ active participation in the recycling program, by sorting their waste.

Nearly all of the waste produced on U.S. military posts in Bavarian can be recycled as long as it is sorted and placed in the proper containers. Soldiers and their Families can bring sorted waste to the recycling facility, which is located across the street from range 118 on the GTA.

"We can take everything, but we need to sort everything," said Claus Engelhardt, an engineer technician at the GTA recycling center.

All non-recyclable materials, known as refuse, are shredded before being transported to an incinerator, located in Schwandorf. The U.S. Army must pay 200 Euro per ton. However, if the waste is not sorted the amount of money spent increases exponentially.

"If we would dispose of all of the material without sorting it would cost over 9 million dollars," said Helmut Buehler, the recycling program manager. “We do not have the bodies to do the sorting here,” he said, referring to the enormous pile of unsorted refuse about to be shredded.

The additional cost is not only in transportation but in equipment maintenance. Metal mixed into the refuse cause extensive wear on the teeth of the shredder. Each cutting surface costs 50,000 Euros, and the metal forces them to be replaced.

Recycling is required on post and in off-post housing areas.

If items aren't sorted, or placed into the containers, the military must pay the contractor an additional fee or bring it to the recycling center on post unsorted. Recycling is complicated by different standards in different communities, and a new link will show all the guidelines for each county, said Buehler.

Buehler went on to elaborate about his role in educating Soldiers and how the programs are enforced.

“We are here to do the utmost to have trash separation tables available to the people to have recycling guides,” said Buehler.

“It is under the commanders’ control,” said Buehler. “We are here to give them the advice, to give them information about how the sort program works, but for corrective action, the chain of command and the installation coordinators are responsible.”

Off-post housing areas are monitored by the Polizei. Soldiers in the past, both on and off post, have received punishment, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, for offenses.

Although it requires some additional effort from Soldiers and their families, the amount of sorted waste has improved considerably.

When the program began in 1999 only 29 percent of all recyclable materials were separated, far below the 50 percent mandate the regulation governing recycling AR 420-1 calls for. Currently 61 percent of materials are recycled.

By raising awareness and educating people about proper sorting the GTA’s recycling center has made great gains to minimizing its non-recyclable waste. Although this is a considerable improvement, there are still ways of increasing efficiency.

“We could do better to save money,” concluded Buehler.