Plastics recycling gets a boost

3.7 million soft-drink/water bottles, plus 4.5 million milk/water bottles sold per year

Posted: Sunday, November 14, 2004

In Saturday morning's drizzle, Colleen Campbell had her 3-year-old daughter in her thoughts as she recycled plastic milk jugs at the landfill.

"We drink a lot of milk," she said. She is happy that she can recycle plastic in Juneau now because she cares about the world her daughter will grow up in, she added.

Saturday, the city landfill on Tonsgard Court in the Lemon Creek area, began taking plastic bottles and jugs for recycling for the first time. People can come in and recycle plastic on future Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to Janet Grange, administrative officer for the Juneau Public Works Department.

Signs on Tonsgard Court and at the landfill direct people where to go to recycle their aluminum, glass, newspapers and now plastic bottles and jugs. Two bins are set aside for plastics. Examples of the sort of plastic each accepts dangle from the open lids of the bins.

One takes the sort of bottles that contain soft drinks and water. The other takes clouded plastic jugs, the sort that milk comes in.

Grange said the lids from the containers will have to be removed, regardless of what they are made of. "We have to make sure it's clean," she added.

But that still a lot of plastic out there that can be recycled, and it could make a big difference in Juneau, she said.

Grange talked to the managers of five major stores in Juneau about how much of the plastics they sell, she explained. In a year, they sell about 3.7 million soft-drink and water bottles and about 4.5 million of the jugs, containing milk and water.

"That's all going into our landfills," Grange said. "It doesn't break down.

Campbell, bringing in six milk jugs for recycling, said she sees it as preserving resources. She said she wasn't just thinking about now, but what the world will be like when her daughter gets older.

"I want her to grow up and have stuff," she said.

Some who came to recycle Saturday didn't bring plastic because they avoid plastic containers.

"We're glass people," Nancy Decherney said as she unloaded glass bottles to recycle. She brought just one plastic water bottle that someone had left at her home.

She said she likes having plastic recycling available in Juneau, though.

So did Jeff Nichols, although he said he simply didn't have any plastic to recycle.

"I think it's great, especially if they get the word out," he said.

Despite the rain and the mud, the numbers of plastic-recyclers grew later in the day.

Grange said that while it may seem more convenient to just throw plastic away, she figures that recycling saves her money.

She said she pays $11 a month for a garbage container. Recycling makes it possible for her household to get by with one container. If she needed more than one container, it would cost her another $8 a month.

She explained that city utility bills include $1.20 a month to pay for the city's recycling program. It's part of the $4 household charge that includes hazardous waste disposal.

Waste Management, the company Juneau contracts with to operate the landfill, ships what is dropped off to be recycled south - to be sold in Washington state, she said.

"In Juneau it costs us to ship anything out, and it is expensive," she said. Currently, aluminum is paying the frieght for recycling, she said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at

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