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Juneau center sees big increases in recyclables flowing in, out

Posted: Sunday, February 11, 2007

A mound of plastic jugs waits to be crushed at Juneau Recycle Center. Paper is shredded into piles as high as a man's chest. Aluminum cans produce an ever-growing heap, a testament to the growth of local recycling.

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By matching financial incentives with increases in days open and materials accepted, the center is seeing huge increases in crowds and bulk. The recycling tonnage shipped out in 2006 nearly tripled that of 2005, Juneau landfill district manager Eric Vance said. That number reached 1,250 tons in 2006, compared to 450 tons in 2005.

The input keeps equipment operator Glenn Powell busy - one job involves a machine using 4,200 pounds of pressure to mash cardboard into 50-cubic-foot bales.

Powell designed the yellow metal bins where people drop their materials, and he tracks the piles as they wait to be compressed. He sees ever more customers since August 2005, when the center changed its days of operation from two days a week to five. Now it's open Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Recycling on the rise

Recycled goods shipped out of Juneau:

• 2005: 450 tons.

• 2006: 1,250 tons

Source: Juneau landfill

Large increases

(in tons)

Newspapers, magazines:

• 2005: 142. • 2006: 354.

Cardboard:

• 2005: 200. • 2006: 273.

Mixed paper:

• 2005: 142. • 2006: 354.

Source: Juneau landfill

"We're starting to see new faces every day," Powell said. "Saturdays, they keep me running ... It won't be uncommon to see 20 cars in the parking lot."

Juneau resident Kathleen Hoffman dropped by around lunchtime on Friday with a carload of stuff. She has to bring it over herself because Juneau does not offer curbside pickup. She comes about every two weeks, she said.

"I think it's important to make use of these things and recycling them instead of just tossing them in the garbage," Hoffman said.

The city of Juneau maintains a $165,000 contract with Capitol Disposal for the recycling, said Judy Harvey, Public Works administrative officer. Future goals include increasing commercial recycling.

Jumps in residential recycling are due in part to education, improvements to the facility and the acceptance of new products.

"It is easier to drive in," she said. "They set up new stations to make it more user-friendly."

A recycling card also proved successful, officials said. About the size of a business card, the recycling card gets punched each day a customer drops off material. When the punches add up to 20, the customer gets a free trip to the landfill worth $54, Vance said. About 3,000 cards have been distributed since January 2006, he said.

The heaviest items shipped out in 2006 were newspaper and magazines, glass and cardboard. Changes to the shipping process have made things more efficient for Capitol Disposal. In previous years, they had to ship straight loads. Now they can send a mixed-product load, which helps prevent a backlog of material.

For residents such as Mark Johnson, recycling is a matter of "being environmentally responsible."

But with the increase in community participation, it's starting to get social for him.

"On the weekend, this is the place to see and be seen," Johnson said.

• Ken Lewis can be reached at ken.lewis@juneauempire.com.



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