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News > Recycling program in dorms helps keep Peterson green
Single stream recycling
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Phil Chase, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron pollution prevention manager (left) and Airman 1st Class Alex Smalldon, 21st Security Forces Squadron reports and analysis, stand near the recycling dumpster outside of building 590. More than 250 individual single stream recycling bins have been placed throughout four separate dorm buildings, making it easier and more convenient for Team Pete members to participate in the base-wide recycling effort. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Golembesky)
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Recycling program in dorms helps keep Peterson green

Posted 4/22/2014   Updated 4/22/2014 Email story   Print story


by Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

4/22/2014 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Have you ever held an item in your hand just before tossing it into the trash bin and thought, should I recycle this? The new dorm recycling program was created to help make this choice easy.

Recycling is good for the environment and helps reduce pollution and waste in landfills and oceans, but for it to be effective, it needs to be accessible and convenient. This is one of the factors behind the success of Peterson AFB's recycling effort.

"When I first got (to Peterson) I was surprised to see there were no recycle bins in the dorms. I grew up where having a recycling bin in your kitchen was common; it was just something that everyone did. It was something I never really thought about until it wasn't there," said Airman 1st Class Alex Smalldon, 21st Security Forces Squadron reports and analysis, and volunteer dorm recycling program creator.

Smalldon was on a mission to change the process and contacted Phil Chase, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron pollution prevention manager, to work on a solution to make recycling in the dorm effective and convenient for those living in the dorms. Smalldon already knew about single-stream recycling, where users place all recyclable items into one bin and the machinery at the recycling facility separates and packages them for resale, but needed to find a way to start the program in the dorm facilities.

"Over the last two years we have been able to change about 11 facilities to the single-stream process," said Chase. "I am only one person, I have really had to rely on volunteers like Alex to step-up and help convert their building (or work area)."

The City of Colorado Springs also has a municipal recycling facility, which can process single-stream recycling, replacing the old method of having users separate recyclables into different bins.

"The biggest problem facing our ability to go to a single-bin system throughout Peterson is having personnel to empty the bins into the recycling dumpster," said Chase.

Chase has made changes where he can, and continues to convert facilities as resources become available. As in the situations with the dorms, the funds were available and all that was needed was a motivated Airman like Smalldon to take charge and make it happen.

"Not everyone has grown up in an environmentally friendly part of the country; they are just used to throwing things in the trash," said Smalldon. "It has taken some time to get everything in place but in the long-run, it's worth it."

Smalldon used this common sense approach to get the program in place, but the key to its success lies on the user to participate and be informed about the do's and don'ts of recycling.

"Every single room that has a shared kitchen has a recycling bin now, that's about 250 recycling bins throughout four dorm buildings," said Smalldon. "One of the most important parts of the program is education. We can provide the infrastructure and make it available to Airmen, but what about all of the Airmen who have never recycled on a daily basis before? They may not be familiar with what can be recycled or what should put in the trash."

The following items are not recyclable:
The thin plastic bags from the supermarket, plastic utensils and hard plastic caps found on bottles of soda, water and juice. All of these types of plastics have reached the end of their lifecycle and can no longer be recycled. When items like these make their way into the machinery at the MRF, they can cause damage and waste maintenance man-hours to remove, sometimes rendering an entire load of recyclables a complete loss.

For more information about what items are recyclable, go to

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