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Milwaukee Soldier Turning the Desert Green in Iraq

Aug. 30, 2010
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Vincent High School graduate Capt.Calvin Fisher is a distinguished U.S. officer participating in an environmentally friendly project with Qahtan Kareem, CEO of the Alshefar Group. As the individual in charge of the Iraqi-Based Industrial Zone located on Contingency Operating Base Speicher (near Tikrit), Fisher has become a vital link between Kareem and U.S. forces. His efforts have helped further the notion of compressing recyclable waste into 3-by-5-foot cubes (rather than burning it) in order to transform waste into chairs and other usable products. While anticipating the arrival of Kareem’s $4 million recycling plant purchased from Michigan, Fisher has already encouraged the green movement by inserting more than 30 recycling bins throughout the Contingency Operating Base (COB).

What worthy developments have occurred within the early stages of this project?

They recently started compressing the aluminum cans, plastic plates and utensils. Also, we are adding an additional 45 bins to the COB, pushing the number up to 76 [with a goal of 100].

What positive outcomes have emerged?

One of the positives is Iraqis have been able to get jobs. They’ve hired 12 additional people, and everyone’s real responsive, helpful and eager to assist. I have a waiting list now with about 30 people who want bins, which aren’t included in the additional 45. These are people who call me or e-mail me saying, “Hey, we want a bin,” or, “Is it possible to get two?” Also, on Aug. 7 [Kareem] made an Iraqi-wide recycling program which covers eight bases.

What do you hope to see materialize in Iraq’s recycling future?

That, before we transition, Kareem starts having receptacles in the villages and pushing the need to recycle in those areas. That’s where it will ultimately benefit [people] and where the most waste and landfills are. It is a health concern as well. And we could title it as better health, better resources and better environment for all. Also, the more bins you have, the more areas you spread it out, the more people you can employ.

What do you feel is vital about this project and worthy of public acknowledgement?

It’s improving the air quality of the COB for the coalition forces, civilians and army. It’s drastically eliminating the amount of waste that goes into the landfills, while showing the Iraqis that, “Hey, we can produce things from the things we consume.” [Ultimately, we’re] striving forward to the future, and really showing how we’ve come over here and stressed the importance of things we do all the time. People [in the United States, for example] don’t see the benefit because it just goes away. You don’t see the landfills, you are not living in the proximity of them, so you’re not really affected, but here it’s totally different.

How’s it different?

Because there’s a village out here where you’ll see mounds of trash and a house will be 5 meters away. Areas that aren’t in the city don’t get the benefit of having the city governments pick up their trash. They have to do the best they can with the resources they have. Therefore, Mr. Kareem wants to do a lot of this stuff humanitarianly, picking it up and assisting them on his own.


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