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Recycling Provides Jobs, Hope for Iraqis

By Army Sgt. Frank Vaughn
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, Feb. 19, 2009 – Soldiers eating at the coalition dining facility here stop to deposit plastic bottles into one bin, aluminum cans into another and trash into a third before leaving.

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Sonia Parker, recycling programs coordinator, discusses printer cartridge recycling with workers at the recycling center on Camp Liberty, Iraq, Feb. 13, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Frank Vaughn
  

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This quick, three-step process has enabled servicemembers to do their part in improving the local environment.

Many Iraqis have found employment opportunities, in part, due to this effort to clean up the environment, said Doug Harger, director of central Iraq’s business development for the First Iraqi Contracting Company.

“Our recycling center here has around 40 Iraqi employees,” he said.

The workers have been collecting bottles and cans, and their work now has expanded to include the collection of cardboard and ink cartridges.

“We ran an experiment with collecting cardboard recently,” Harger said. “We started with the [post exchange] at [Camp] Liberty, and in one week we collected over four metric tons of the stuff.”

The reuse of ink cartridges will help eliminate needless waste, Sonia Parker, recycling programs coordinator for 10th Mountain Division, said.

“The less we have in trash dumps the better,” she said. “Reusing ink cartridges will help a lot in this effort.”

If left as litter, bottles and cans often wash into the sewer system and back up treatment plans when it rains. The bottles and cans that make it to trash dumps present a major environmental problem as well, Parker said.

Other methods of material disposal create health risks. “Burning this stuff creates toxic fumes,” she said. “When it rains, that stuff that burned into the air comes right back down.”

Harger said education is an important element in turning this problem around.

“Fifty percent of Iraq’s population is under the age of 20,” he explained. Learning now how to properly care for the environment will improve the environment and health for future generations, he added.

(Army Sgt. Frank Vaughn serves with Multinational Division Center.)

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Related Sites:
Multinational Corps Iraq

Click photo for screen-resolution imageSonia Parker, recycling programs coordinator, observes Hryar Markossian as he demonstrates how to operate a machine that sorts and crushes aluminum cans at the recycling center on Camp Liberty, Iraq, Feb. 13, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Frank Vaughn  
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