Earth Day: Sorting Trash Saves The Environment


Sterile, blue latex gloves snap against the hands of Sailors preparing to start their day in a place you may not often think about. These crewmembers work in a place you rely on, on station around the clock even after Earth Day passes.

     U.S. Navy commands all over the world celebrated Earth Day, April 22. Although USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) is forward-deployed to the 5th Fleet area of operations, the ship still did her part by continuing to separate trash to help keep the environment around her clean.

     In one of several waste rooms aboard TR, a mighty few of the aircraft carrier’s Sailors sort through the day’s accumulation of trash.

     Theodore Roosevelt’s waste management team does more than meets the eye. The team’s charge isn’t just about getting garbage out of each space, but more focused on challenging the entire crew to make sure everything is sorted properly and to keep the environment clean.

     “Our job is already hard enough. Our guys are there to run the equipment and process it,” said Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class John Detamore. “It’s not [our people’s] job to sort the trash. That’s why we put it out to everyone to sort their trash.”


TR’s waste management team is composed of nine machinist’s mates who are a part of Engineering department’s A-Division. The team has several temporary assigned duty personnel who help aid the process of getting trash off the ship.

     “There’s a lot that goes into the procedures of how we handle trash, like when we can light off the incinerator and when we can’t,” said Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Julia Gardner. “We have to be a certain distance from land to dump certain types of waste.”

     The ship needs to be at least three nautical miles to discharge food waste from the pulpers and at least 25 miles to discharge metal through the trash shoots and into the ocean, said Gardner.


  “If you don’t sort it properly, and it doesn’t get caught, not only will it ruin our equipment, but it also can compromise what the [Environmental Protection Agency] EPA has set in place for us,” Gardner added.

     Sorting trash not only eases the workload for the waste management team, but is critical for the environment in addition to maintaining the equipment.

     “If we have a bag of metal and there was plastic in it and that plastic somehow gets out, [marine life] could swallow it,” said Detamore. “Not only is it bad for the environment, but our ship could face a huge fine.”

     The plastic is melted down and processed into oversized plastic “pucks”. Of all the refuse that is taken to the waste rooms, plastic is the only thing that is not allowed to be dumped overboard.

     “Plastic pucks get offloaded during our underway replenishments,” said Detamore. “We are offloading anywhere between 15 to 30 tri-walls full of pucks. They get taken over to the other ship during the UNREP [underway replenishment], and they take it back to shore and can process and take it to a recycling plant.”

     “We don’t ask for much,” said Gardner. “We really need people to sort their trash thoroughly and make sure they separate everything. We can, and we do, turn people away. Making sure the trash is sorted is so much more important than some people realize.”

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