ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England --
There has been a recent increase of illegal dumping on RAFs Lakenheath and Feltwell, with mattresses, furniture and electrical appliances left piling up outside dumpsters and garbage collection sites.
Removing these bulky items costs the installations more than $100,000 annually.
"These costs add up over time and take away from other great programs we can offer on our base," said Col. Cassie Barlow, 48th Mission Support Group commander.
Solid waste such as mattresses and furniture often turns up in and around the dumpsters when personnel move.
Trevor Seaman, liaison support officer for the Royal Air Force who monitors the contract for solid waste removal, noted some extreme examples of items left by departing personnel, such as a complete bed.
"It looked like someone had slept in it that night and put it out the next day. There were still sheets on it!" he said.
Another time, a garbage collector found an aquarium with seven tropical fish in a dumpster and refused to empty it. Luckily, the fish were later adopted.
"These dumpsters are not for household goods," said Mr. Seaman. "When you leave household items there, you're now adding to government bills."
Besides forming a public eyesore, discarded appliances and electronics such as refrigerators or televisions can pose a health hazard when they are dumped.
"Electronic waste contains heavy metals, such as lead, mercury and cadmium," said Kathi Hailey, 48th Civil Engineer Squadron environmental engineer.
Ms. Hailey said people can be exposed to these metals in the air, water and soil, potentially causing lung disease, nerve damage and other ailments.
While the Lakenheath and Feltwell recycling centers can easily take small items such as glass jars and cardboard, they are not equipped to take large household items or domestic electronics. Ms. Hailey recommended that personnel either donate these items or, for those living off-base, contact their town council to arrange a collection.
"Once [the waste] is put in the right place, the metals can be recovered and disposed of properly," said Ms. Hailey.
The best disposal option is community household waste collection points. In the immediate area surrounding Lakenheath and Feltwell, collection points are located in the town of Thetford in the Burrel Way industrial estate and just off the A1065 north of the five-way roundabout. Additional sites are open on Depot Road in Newmarket and on Rougham Hill off the A134 in Bury St. Edmunds.
In addition to taking furniture items and appliances, these sites will also take other hazardous items such as used car batteries and engine oils.
For more information about recycling in the local community, visit http://www.forest-heath.gov.uk/Environmental+Services/WasteRecycling/