Unalaska recycling program gets national attention

Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2002

UNALASKA (AP) -- Unalaska's recycling program is being held up as a model for other small communities nationwide.

The program will be presented to a national audience next month at the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable in Portland, Ore.

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation officials are highlighting the Qawalangin Tribe's recycling program as a model.

In just a few years the program has grown from a school-based volunteer program to an operation that ships out more than a million pounds of recyclables a year.

''If it can work here, it can work just about anywhere in the world,'' said Chris Price, who helped develop the program for the tribe.

DEC planner Bill Stokes will outline the program at the national event, with hopes that other small communities can replicate Unalaska's achievement.

He said Unalaska recycles as much on a per-capita basis as anywhere in the state. He said that was an achievement, particularly given Unalaska's remote location.

''In your size community, this is an extraordinary accomplishment,'' Stokes said. ''Sure, it's a hassle and costs money, but you're a role model.''

The effort is good for the Aleutian Island city, both environmental and financially, Stokes said.

Building a new landfill in rural Alaska can cost more than $300 per square yard, and there aren't any good locations left for a new city dump near Unalaska. Stokes said every scrap of recycled material that is shipped off the island delays the inevitable search for a new landfill site.

Meanwhile, Stokes credits the Qawalangin Tribe with advancing environmental priorities in Unalaska.

The local interest in recycling began about four years ago when Stokes presented an environmental planning model to the tribes in the Aleutian region.

The effort started modestly, with people simply wanting to see less garbage on the streets. Since then, it has blossomed into a diverse recycling program that handles tons of cardboard, glass and aluminum, as well as other materials.

CSX has provided free shipping for the materials.

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