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What does Environmental Awareness mean to you?

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- You've probably heard the terms "protecting the environment," "pollution prevention," and "reduce, reuse, recycle" at some point in your life.  These are some of the basic terms used in environmental awareness training that can apply to your home as well as your work centers.  For the most part, whether at work or at home, we do a fairly good job of protecting the environment.

Buckley Air Force Base uses the Environmental Management System to ensure the mission has a minimal impact on our environment.  Through a constant "Plan-Do-Check-Act" cycle, we follow established guidance for everything from the use of hazardous materials in our work areas to how we take out the trash.

At various levels in each organization there are representatives that work closely with the 460th Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Element to ensure that their work centers comply with all local, state and federal environmental laws. This could be the Unit Environmental Coordinator, the Cross-Functional Team, or Hazardous Materials Management Program members. The UECs, CFT and HMMP members are our eyes and ears in the work centers on a day-to-day basis and who we reach out to when we need to conduct a periodic compliance inspection.

Reduction of hazardous materials in place of safer environmentally friendly products is critical.

The Air Force goal is to reduce the use of hazardous materials and replace them with safer, more environmentally friendly products whenever possible, but we know there will be situations where this is not feasible.  That's why we work closely with your HMMP representatives to ensure that your work center has what you are authorized to have in your chemical inventories to complete the mission and that all personnel are properly trained in the storage and use of hazardous materials and the disposal of any hazardous wastes generated by your work processes.

The process isn't complicated, it's detailed.

There are many "moving parts" that are hidden from the average person in the "cradle-to-grave" process of tracking hazardous materials and the hazardous wastes produced with the different work processes here at Buckley.  But you, too, are a vital part of the waste disposal process even if you don't work with hazardous materials.

Each individual plays a role in the disposal of hazardous material.

One of the first things we can do is look at our own thought processes.  Think about this simple statement - there is no away.  You don't throw it "away," you don't flush it "away," and you don't wash it "away."  It all goes somewhere, be it a landfill, a waste water treatment facility, or eventually a stream, river, lake or the ocean.

There are repercussions of mishandling hazardous waste.

We hardly ever give it a second thought after something has been tossed into a trash can or goes swirling down the drain.  And that's where we can make a difference.  By thinking about the effect of what we're throwing or washing away will have on our environment.

To coin a hopefully new phrase, "Think before you sink."  It can be "sinking two points" when you pitch that empty sports drink bottle into a trash can instead of a recycling bin or dumping something into a sink or wash basin.  Before you toss it, ask yourself if it's a recyclable item.  Before you wash off or dispose of that chemical residue, check the Safety Data Sheet or manufacturer's directions for proper disposal instructions.

Deciphering whether something is trash or recyclable can be difficult. Here's an easy way to make that determination.  If you have to wash your hands after handling the item, then it most likely should be placed in a waste receptacle.  Such items are food wrappers, fast-food containers, items that are soiled or wet from a cleaning process, etc.  The 460th CES Environmental Element can provide you with a pamphlet on recycling that can tell you what to put in a trash dumpster and what you can recycle.

No need to separate all of your recyclables.

We have a "single-stream" recycling program here at Buckley.  That means you can dump all of your recyclable items into any of the blue bins near your work centers that have the recycle triangle on them.  It's that easy.
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