thINKing outside the box: Eielson Airmen creates cost efficient ink cartridge disposal program

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Schoubroek
  • 354th Fighter Wing

After an impromptu inspection from the EPA, it was brought to the attention of Enzo Fochesatto, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron environmental coordinator and hazardous materials technician, that the installation had inadvertently been improperly disposing of ink cartridges.

“The minimum fine EPA can cite you with is $157 per day. So if you have one improperly-disposed-of cartridge the fine will be $157 times the number of cartridges times the number of days they have been sitting in the trash,” said Fochesatto. “So the fine can pile up pretty quickly. [Now] if one office was improperly disposing of their cartridges for a few days, that is one thing, but imagine no one on base has disposed of their cartridges for years and the EPA shows up and we have dumpsters full.”

“That’s basically what we were dealing with,” added U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kalvin Gilhousin, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron functional systems administrator non commissioned officer in charge.

With Gilhousen being the functional systems manager and already having access to all the printer systems on base, he found himself curious after Fochesatto mentioned the failed inspection in what was thought to be an insignificant passing conversation.

Although it was never Gilhousen’s problem to worry about, he had his reasons for being so curious.

“Alaska is pretty much my home. I’ve been here since 2011. I met my wife in Alaska. My kids are Alaskan-born and raised. I extended till 2025 and I am going to stay here,” said Gilhousen. “Because of how geographically disconnected we are, recycling is almost nonexistent in Alaska. Unlike the lower 48, there are not really programs here for those types of things. It's not that easy here.”

With Alaska and the Air Force both being a huge part of Gilhousen and his family’s lives, he was compelled to look for a solution.

“After doing some research on how to properly dispose of these cartridges, I realized I was in the best position to take on this extra duty. Anything dealing with phones, printers, scanners, computers, or laptops; everything goes through me,” said Gilhousen. “Not only that, but my office is within the supply warehouse on base, I have all the major shipping hubs right at my fingertips. Who better to do this than me?”

While doing his research he learned that all of the name brand cartridges could be shipped back to their original warehouses but he still had to find a solution for the cartridges that were unbranded.

Reaching out to Eielson’s local recycling warehouse, Green Star of Alaska, connected Gilhousen with the Lathrop High School BRIDGE Program.

The BRIDGE Program’s mission is to assist young adults with developmental disabilities in gaining skills, knowledge and appropriate behaviors to become successful individuals, citizens and workers in the community.

To Gillhousen’s relief, one of the skills that the program had coincidentally been teaching these students was how to properly dispose of used ink cartridges.

After Gilhousen solidified the Eielson Ink Cartridge Disposal Program he was awarded by Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis the Fairbanks Outstanding Community Member Award, signed by both senators of Alaska. This award not only highlighted the cartridge program but also his work as the Adopt-A-Highway coordinator for the 354th LRS stretch of highway in North Pole, Alaska, for his involvement in Operation Underground Railroad, and for being a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response volunteer victim advocate.

Eielson’s professionals identified a problem, figured out a solution, and put in the work to create an innovative program that has opened the door for partnership with the local community and has made it possible for everyone to protect the land that they serve on.

“The only thing left to do is spread the word so that people know that this program exists,” said Gilhousen.

Base personnel in need of ink cartridge disposal can email Eielson’s Ink Cartridge Disposal Program at All base personnel are welcome to utilize the program.