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Scrapping the rumor

Posted: April 8, 2012 - 7:37pm  |  Updated: April 9, 2012 - 3:44pm
John Pothast sorts his recyclables into their respective collection containers Saturday afternoon at the Kenai Peninsula Borough landfill in Soldotna.  Photo by M. Scott Moon
Photo by M. Scott Moon
John Pothast sorts his recyclables into their respective collection containers Saturday afternoon at the Kenai Peninsula Borough landfill in Soldotna.

The concept of recycling revolves around keeping certain things out of the landfill.

But on the Kenai Peninsula, officials and local recycling advocates say they’d prefer one particular rumor be buried for good.

That rumor is that recycling on the Peninsula is a hoax — that bins labeled as recycling drop-offs scattered around the area are just a ruse, a wily subterfuge aimed at making environmentalists feel good about themselves.

However, Jan Wallace, Soldotna resident and current secretary of the local recycling advocacy group Re-Group, believes the opposite is true.

Where some skeptics see a hoax, Wallace has decades of hands-on recycling experience.

“We’ve been around for 20 years and the urban myth issues and things have been around about as long,” she said with a laugh.

Wallace said Re-Group formed in 1989 when recycling trends became popular and the need became apparent. At the time, residents had only an empty trailer parked behind the Kenai Peninsula Borough administration building to fill with a limited amount of materials, she said.

“You could haul your recycle there, volunteers would go and try and keep it somewhat clean and when it was filled they would haul it back to Anchorage,” she said. “There was no other recycling other than that.”

Borough Solid Waste Director Jack Maryott said it is a common misconception his department hears all the time.

His response? The proof is in the numbers.

“I say that you are more than welcome to come in to our facility or our admin office and we can go over our records because we keep very accurate records of our tonnage, what we pay for shipping, what is received at the recycling center and what revenue we receive back,” he said. “We really have proof that this stuff isn’t getting thrown away.”

So why then do the rumors keep cropping up? Wallace said residents might not want to believe the borough spends the time to gather and ship its recycling to a market in Anchorage because they might not want to feel obligated to participate.

“Psychologically if people believe something, then they don’t have to be personally responsible,” she said. “I don’t know if that has a play in it, especially if they are not personally accepting of environmentalist activities, which I’m not sure how recycling falls under that but it seems to.”

Wallace also wondered why the borough would purchase expensive containers, keep recyclables separate and bail them up if only to toss it out with the rest of the garbage.

“Obviously that’s not logical,” she said.

Other than that particular rumor, Re-Group has been fighting bigger battles, Wallace said.

“We’ve been doing this for 20 years and there are still people in our community that have no clue that we recycle,” she said.

Wallace and other Re-Groupers — numbering about 20 or 30 regulars with a newsletter list of about 400 subscribers — continue to push information about the number of ways to recycle in the area.

“Our main purpose is to educate and inform people of the new stuff we are doing, where you can recycle and what you can recycle,” she said.

On Saturday, Wallace said the group manned a booth at the health fair at Soldotna High School. She also said the group will be present for the Kenai Peninsula College’s Earth Day Celebration on April 19 and will host an electronics recycling event on May 19 at Central Peninsula Landfill.

“It’s not glamorous,” she said with a laugh.

But it is important.

“I personally believe that resources are valuable no matter what form they are in,” she said.

Wallace mentioned electronics as a new focus in the recycling-conscious community as a way to get as many products reused as possible.

“Just when you think of the world’s situation in resources, as a community of people for us to want to be wanting to use more electronics, which most of us do … that any in any of the older stuff that we are not using are valuable resources … including gold, cadmium, lead and all the rare earth minerals,” she said. “The logic financially, energywise, timewise, it seems more logical to mine materials out of things we already have than out of the ground.”

And for all the work the group, the borough and countless others have done, more can always been accomplished.

“It’s encouraging just from the fact that we started with one van behind the borough building to tons … that we recycle total out of the borough,” she said. “If we could recycle 25 percent of what we can, we would be doing better than average, but I doubt we are there.”

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Watchman on the Wall
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Watchman on the Wall 04/12/12 - 10:36 am
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Lets try this again to see if

Lets try this again to see if we can relate our opinions on this issue without reverting to abuse of others, want too?
I am one that sees this as a means of promoting a feel good about ones self or desire to aid in the preservation of earth by very simple tasks such as saving plastic or glass or cardboard or aluminium cans.
All of which are seperated out into differant bins for a supposed recycling program thats completed by the expensive shipping of said items outside.

This is all good and fine if thats ones cup of tea. However i look at the land fill beyond the recycle bins and area for disposing of trash on many occasions due to the transfering of large trash items of no value to the upper sections of the land fill as i go about doing various things to help others.
What i see over the hill away from the feel good recycle area is a massive waste of many very usable items.
Items that if allowed to be recycled could be put to much use for the good of people on the kenai, but are restricted from recycling and buried under an ever increasing mound of dirt.
We have the Caring for the Kenai program each year where kids present ideas to help others in many differant areas of life in an effort to obtain money for education and thats a GR8 program as well, which is kind of in line with recycling.
There was a young lady that wrote a letter wishing to have some sort of legislation against the plastic bags that are being blown every where and are quit an eye sore and i agree it is a problem and needs to be delt with.

My point is if we really cared about the Kenai or earth and helping prevent waste, why can't there be a program of volunteers sorting out the many reusable building material and other items such as wood or metals to help in programs like Housing for Humanity or have a borough resale store where the monies go to help struggling families?

Personally i look at the recycle program as a means to mask the massive waste by Americans and Alaskans as well with a nonesential feel good program that actually helps nothing in the long term.

The Landfill hill is well beyond the tree line now as one approaches from the south and is getting bigger daily with OUR massive waste on many reusable items. But thats how our economy worksand it's off of massive waste and production on new items, with rebates being given to all that dispose of absolutely good reusable materials or foods that may have slight defects or be unwanted by those unwilling to spend the time of recycling.

If this feel good thing thats ment to help others is all we can offer and we allow the massive waste to continue, i'll ask why, and is it really helping anyone other that a select few?

I will also ask what about our fellow humanbeings that need help in various ways and are suffering? We turn our heads and pretend that these things are not happening and do little things like saving plastic to mask OUR failures concerning things that really matter most,Helping people.
What a waste of reusable things, with people being the most disguarded items every where.

Jeremiah 6:17

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