How can you improve the economy, help the environment, support sustainable manufacturing and prevent trash from finding its way to the ocean? One word ó recycle.

According to Recycle Across America, a recent Yale University/Environmental Protection Agency study found that less than 22 percent of discarded materials in the U.S. are recycled. Although the U.S. has spent billions of dollars on recycling promotions and new technologies, recycling levels have remained about the same in the last two decades. The World Watch Institute found that the U.S. generates the most waste in the world, in spite of the fact that we represent only 5 percent of the global population.

Waste is a huge issue worldwide and is expected to increase twice-over in the next couple decades. Where does all this garbage go? All this trash eventually finds its way to a landfill, as litter on the roadside, or trash in the ocean.

If people are unsure of how and what to recycle, they wonít recycle properly. Contamination of recycled materials reduces how and what is recycled and impacts how clean that material is before making it into a new product. As a result, less is recycled and many recycling businesses suffer.

Recycling saves natural resources and energy, reduces pollution, and saves landfill space. Recycle Across America states if you recycled one ton of plastic bottles, you could save enough energy to power a household of two people for one year. Recycling one soda can requires 95 percent less energy and water to recycle than to make one from virgin materials. The savings add up quickly.

According to Recycle Across America, every hour Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles. Over a lifetime, you have the opportunity to recycle more than 25,000 aluminum cans.

Paper is an even bigger problem. Not only do we cut down virgin forests to manufacture paper, causing damage to the environment, but tossing that paper in the trash takes up valuable landfill space. Recycling just one stack of paper three feet tall can save one tree. Paper waste is one of the biggest wastes on Fort Bragg.

What can you do? First, take the America Recycles Day Pledge. Pledge to learn about what is recycled in your community. Then choose your focus. What action are you going to take? Be sure to share this information with your Family, friends and neighbors. Next step? Recycle. Itís easy and it helps our community save money, energy, natural resources, and landfill space.

Fort Bragg strives to recycle as much as possible. The Fort Bragg Recycling Center accepts all recyclables including plastics, aluminum cans, steel cans, cardboard, office paper, newspapers, magazines, personal electronics, glass and waste vegetable oil. The center is located on the corner of Butner and Reilly roads, across from the veterinary clinic and just before the entrance to Pope Field. Hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.

For more information on recyclable materials, call the Fort Bragg Recycling Center at 396-3372 or 908-3803, or contact your community recycling program. Find recycling resources online at www.recyclemorenc.org, www.americarecyclesday.org and at www.recycleacrossamerica.org.