Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center looks to spread waste diversion awareness

High Country Conservation Center, Timberline provide free recycling and composting resources to the education center

High Country Conservation Center Community Programs Manager Allie Flynn, right, talks to Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center employees about their recycling program during a training session in the summer.
Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center/Courtesy photo

The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center has advanced its waste-diversion program to further educate its guests on sustainability.

Timberline Disposal & Recycling offered its single-stream recycling, glass recycling and composting services to the nonprofit education center for free, providing large, dumpster-like waste receptacles for its recyclable and compostable waste. The High Country Conservation Center provided the “slim jim” bins and compost buckets in the center’s buildings along with educational signage, trolleys for moving the waste bins and labels.

Hallie Jaeger, development manager for the outdoor education center, said she and a co-worker previously worked for the conservation center and already had an appreciation for sustainability and environmentalism in the community.

“We were coming from this culture of sustainability and environmentalism in our community, and that was really quickly paired with what (the outdoor education center) is all about as far as respecting outdoors and Mother Nature,” Jaeger said. “So it was just a super solid kind of foundation to work on these action items.”

Prior to this partnership, outdoor education center staff would drive all of the center’s recycling and food scraps to the recycling center in Breckenridge. Now, Timberline comes to the center to collect recyclable and compostable waste.

Jaeger said having a waste-diversion plan to keep waste out of landfills keeps the outdoor education center in line with its value of protecting the environment and minimizing impact. Interacting with more than 1,000 participants every summer, the center hopes it can further spread a culture of sustainability. For example, the center hosts rafting trips for folks with special needs and disabilities, and staff brings along recycling and composting bins to minimize waste going to the landfill.

“We believe that creates habits that are lasting and they can take home with them,” Jaeger said. “It’s kind of exponential in creating this amazing culture of sustainability at the (outdoor education center) but then also spreading it to people who are participants who come from all over the United States and the world, essentially.”

Allie Flynn, community programs manager with the conservation center, said the nonprofit is able to provide resources like this to businesses and organizations across the county thanks to “Strong Future” grant funding. The grant is intended to help businesses in the county implement or improve their recycling programs, and Flynn said the center is always looking to help more businesses.

Through the grant funding, the conservation center has helped 24 businesses get single-stream recycling, glass recycling and composting. It cost the center a little over $1,400 to provide the equipment to the education center.

In the summer, the education center hosted a staff training night where Flynn taught everyone about what the recycling program should look like. This includes making sure the right materials go into the right bins.

“For (the conservation center) to come in and be able to explain rules like that, it gives a lot of credibility and backing and belief that our hard work on the front end and recycling is actually happening in the back end, too, when it’s taken away from you,” Jaeger said.

The rules of recycling and food scrap composting are different depending on the brokerage of materials in local markets, and Flynn explained to education center staff how this works in Summit County.

“I think it’s really important that we share recycling practices with people that are from other states, because Summit County has different recycling practices than most other counties across the U.S.,” Flynn said.

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