FORT STEWART, Ga. - Pedals turn as the kid rides down the street, red wagon in tow, collecting bottles and cans. With a full load he makes his way to the recycling center and smiles ear-to-ear as the man counts the fresh bills into his tiny palm. No sooner than the last bill hits his hand, he’s rushing to the store to purchase the new baseball that he and his friends will spend the summer smudging with dirt and grass stains from the countless hours they will spend on the field, not once realizing he has done his part to keep America beautiful.

From generation to generation, collecting recyclables has served as a rite of passage, and in some small way has helped instill in us the appreciation of earning money on our own. I can remember being a kid and spending hours in the garage stomping on cans in preparation for a trip to the recycling center, the whole time thinking about the new comic books I was working so hard for. With age comes wisdom and though I no longer rely on the money gained from recycling to buy my comic books, I have realized that the small act serves a greater purpose and can make a difference.

Not only does recycling help the environment but it is also a requirement on post. Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield has been tasked with cutting down on their waste by 40 percent, and the easiest way to reach that goal is by recycling. In order to elicit greater participation in hopes of reaching this goal, Fort Stewart’s Waste Management Section has done everything they can to make recycling as easy as possible for us.

Simply because you live in the barracks doesn’t mean you don’t have a role to play in this mission. Although you may not realize it, with more than 5,300 single Soldiers living in the barracks, you can have a major impact on this goal. If every single Soldier recycled one plastic water bottle a day for a year, you would have more than 54,000 pounds of recyclable material. To put that into perspective, the Humvee weighs approximately 5,200 pounds. In that year’s time together you would have recycled the equivalent of 10 Humvee’s.

Plastic bottles are just the tip of the iceberg. The list of items that can be recycled here is long, and varies from the well-known plastic bottles, aluminum cans and paper products to scrap metals and used personal electronics.

Now that you have an idea what an enormous part you have to play you may be asking yourself how you can get involved. Well it’s simple.

The first step to doing your part is learning exactly what items can and can’t be recycled. The Fort Stewart Waste Management Section has a very informative page that can be accessed through the Fort Stewart Web site, which lists all accepted recyclables, as well as the proper packaging and separation of these goods.

Once you’ve been properly informed you can begin recycling by simply using multiple trash bins in your own room or step up and take charge by implementing a recycling program for your entire building. You could also organize a monthly recycling day where you invite other Soldiers out for a free barbecue as long as they bring some recyclables. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and drive. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t have a good time while recycling.

We have all been trained that every Soldier’s actions are integral to the mission’s success and that we should all strive to be leaders. This mission is no different. We all need to do our duty to help preserve our nation’s natural resources and keep our country beautiful.

For additional information, contact the Fort Stewart Waste Management Section at 912-767-8880.