City establishes new recycling plan

Posted: Sunday, August 17, 2003

The city has contracted with a new company to recycle white office paper, but businesses and government agencies will have to deliver it to the recycling center at the Lemon Creek landfill.

White-paper recycling in Juneau ended about four months ago, when Gastineau Human Services decided to get out of the recycling business.

The nonprofit's service was subsidized with a $25,000 city grant, and it picked up white office paper, newspapers, magazines and catalogs at businesses and government offices in Juneau.

Since GHS stopped its recycling program last spring, no one in town has provided the service for white office paper, and other materials such as newsprint and cardboard must be taken to the landfill rather than picked up.

GHS also closed recycle drop-off locations at Fred Meyer and Alaskan and Proud grocery store.

On Wednesday, Capitol Disposal - a subsidiary of Waste Management, which operates the Lemon Creek landfill - will begin accepting white paper at the Juneau Recycling Center at 5600 Tonsgard Court.

Businesses, offices and residents also can recycle aluminum cans, clean foil, brown paper bags, glass (all colors), tin cans, cardboard and newspapers on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The recycling center does not accept magazines or catalogs.

Capitol Disposal will not pick up materials to be recycled, and businesses and government agencies will have to pay 5 cents a pound for recycling. The service is free to Juneau residents.

"GHS had the manpower and the vehicles and everything to go out to these offices to do that," said Michael Allison, Southeast district manager for Waste Management. "But we're not set up to do that and at this point in time we don't have any plans in place to go out to peoples' offices."

Allison said recycling white paper is cheaper than throwing it away. Capitol Disposal charges 7 cents a pound to take waste, compared to the 5 cents charged for recycling it.

"Whether you're a tourism-oriented store downtown or you're a state, city or federal entity or even a doctor's office, you're paying for that material to go away one way or another," Allison said.

Janet Grange, an administrative officer for the city Public Works Department, said it costs the city $13,750 a month to make the recycling center available.

Recyclables collected at the center are sold to a company in Renton, Wash., called Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. Market prices for recycling commodities fluctuate, Allison said, and when Capitol Disposal makes a profit on material sold to Smurfit-Stone, it splits the profit 50-50 with the city.

Grange said recycling at the landfill could be successful if the state makes a commitment to the operation.

"I'd like to see them hire someone to pick up the white paper or allow employees to take white paper to the recycling center," she said.

Nancy Waterman of the Juneau-based Friends of Recycling said the group hopes to get the word out to offices that used the pickup service provided by GHS.

"I think that's a win-win for the business, because the business is going to pay to put their white paper in the garbage or they can opt to pay an employee to drop it off for recycling," Waterman said.

She also stressed the importance of having someone at the recycling center to explain the nuances of recycling.

"In the aluminum bin we only want aluminum cans," she said, noting that mixing assorted metals, paper and cardboard can degrade the recycled product.

White office paper recycling, for instance, must not be colored or contain large color graphics.

"It's only paper you would put through a printer," Waterman said.

White paper also must not contain paper clips or other bindings aside from staples, she said.

Allison said that if the recyclable material is mixed or contains non-recyclable material, it becomes less profitable.

"If it's contaminated enough, it's a loser," he said. "The recycling center has been open for a couple of years now and we still get people leaving their newspapers in plastic bags and leaving their newspapers in paper bags, and we have to go through and clean all that stuff out because the recycler won't take it."

Ultimately, Friends of Recycling would like to see a curbside recycling program in Juneau, Waterman said.

In the mid-'90s the Southeast Alaska Guidance Association, an organization that provides jobs and training for teenagers, started a curbside recycling program that lasted about four years. Customers paid $8 a month for pickup of glass, aluminum and newspapers.

At the peak of the curbside recycling program, SAGA serviced about 350 households, said SAGA Director Joe Parrish. He said the program generated enough revenue to pay one full-time employee, but it was not enough for essential equipment such as a new truck to transport recyclables.

"We were running around with a surplus truck from the jail," Parrish said. "The goal was to demonstrate that curbside recycling could be done in Juneau."

The program was discontinued after the recycling center at the landfill was opened, he said.

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at

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