A recent survey of Alaska's rural residents showed that Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling is the environmental group they know and like best.
Considering that the poll listed most of the environmental groups operating in Alaska, ALPAR's standing was welcome recognition for a hard working and deserving group.
ALPAR was founded in the early 1980s by Alaska's beverage and grocery industries with major support from the oil and transportation industries and the general business community. Its formation was in response to growing public concern about littering.
The group's formation and continued success depended in large part on major commitments from the private sector and a large number of volunteers, both children and adults.
Its initial program was made possible by the fact that the two major shippers serving Southcentral Alaska, Sea-Land Freight Service and Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE), offered to backhaul recyclables to Lower 48 markets at no cost to ALPAR.
From southern ports, the materials could be moved into major recycling streams and beneficially used. Sea-Land is now known as CSX Lines.
ALPAR's reach went virtually statewide several years later when Alaska's air carriers pitched in and began backhauling aluminum cans from remote communities to Anchorage, where they could be combined with the city's recyclables and shipped south.
The major sponsor of the Flying Cans program these days is Northern Air Cargo, which backhauls recyclables from everywhere it flies.
Each year ALPAR distributes more than 200,000 bright-yellow trash bags used for community cleanups in urban and rural Alaska. Its other highly successful programs include Youth Litter Patrols and Can-Do Kids, in which youngsters set up recycling routes in their neighborhoods, much like newspaper delivery routes.
ALPAR operates entirely on private funding and has succeeded in making litter cleanup and prevention and recycling popular activities across Alaska.
Its programs have proved to be one of those relatively rare opportunities where the private sector can work in harmony with green activists.
It's no surprise that rural residents see ALPAR as their favorite environmental nonprofit organization. They've been partners for years.
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