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Reduce, reuse, recycle - now easier than ever

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Nearly 90 percent of what we throw away could potentially be recovered through re-use, recycling or composting.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Coloradoans generated an average of 9.1 pounds of discarded materials per person per day, sent 7.2 of those pounds to a landfill, and recycled 1.9 pounds. Collectively we sent 8.2 million tons to landfills for disposal in 2010 and recycled only 9.4 percent.

According to Bob Fant, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron environmental quality chief, in October 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order for all federal agencies to divert at least 50 percent of municipal solid waste from landfills by 2015.

While Peterson AFB is excelling in diversion and reuse of construction and demolition debris, recycling of papers, boxboard (paper cartons), magazines and beverage containers is lagging significantly below what could be diverted. Waste stream audits conducted at Peterson AFB from 2006-2011 revealed that more than 40 percent of what was discarded at surveyed facilities could have been recycled.

Diverting recyclables from a landfill waste stream has significant impacts on costs associated with collection and disposal fees. Average recycling costs are half of municipal solid waste disposal costs. At Peterson, recycling averages $69 per ton versus disposal rates of $171 per ton. The more recycling done, the more money saved and resources conserved.

To implement a more effective and efficient recycling program at the installation, a change in how to collect recyclables is on its way. Much like recycling at home or off-base, one container will now be used to collect all eligible recyclables, as opposed to previous methods of sorting specific materials into separate collection containers.

This is called "single stream" recycling. It has proven to be much more convenient to users, and convenience has proven to increase participation.

"Single stream recycling is meant to make recycling incredibly easy. You don't even really have to think about it anymore," Fant said.

There are important guidelines to follow to ensure that contaminated recyclables, such as food-soiled materials or liquids left in containers, or materials that cannot currently be accepted in the Colorado Springs recycling stream (Styrofoam, plastic bags/wrappers, frozen food boxes, etc.) do not cause an entire dumpster of recyclables to be sent to the landfill instead.

Posters will be placed at recycling collection points to help remind users of the types of common recyclable materials and what must be sent to a landfill as refuse.

This year's "Earth Day" is April 22. During the following week, four facilities at Peterson have agreed to take on the challenge to implement single stream recycling at their locations and see if they can reverse their landfilling and recycling rates. Buildings 1, 3, 1324 and 2025 will begin with kickoff events in their lobbies to announce, promote and educate all occupants on the details of this initiative. New collection bins and signage will be in place for them to start the program right away. Three months of monitoring, data collection, and participant feedback will be gathered to further improve future implementation at additional facilities across the installation.

Single stream recycling containers will be added throughout base as the project progresses into 2013, Fant said.

For more information contact Phil Chase at 556-7707.

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