Anchorage's plastics recycling program gets second chance

Posted: Monday, September 17, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Anchorage's last plastics recycling program was scrapped four years ago after it failed to make money.

A new push for plastics recycling is showing more promise.

Recycling advocates persuaded Smurfit Stone Recycling to try again this year by volunteering to teach recyclers what was needed to make the program a success.

Smurfit agreed to a trial run, putting out a bin one Saturday each month over the summer. Later the company began taking plastics during business hours at its facility.

While there are still serious problems, said plant manager Guy Barton, the program will continue for now.

''Response has been really good,'' said Jeanne Carlson, chairwoman for Citizens for Recycling Solutions, an all-volunteer citizens group which approached Smurfit about bringing back the plastics program.

Like other city residents across the United States, Anchorage residents toss a whopping number of soft drink bottles, bubble wrap and other plastics.

A 1997 study -- the latest one available -- found people from Eklutna to Portage threw away more than 25,500 tons of plastics, said Joel Grunwaldt, director of solid waste services for the city. He said the amount is close to the national average.

During 1997, the last year when residential plastics recycling occurred locally, the recycling program captured 14 tons.

Barton estimated that this year's program has taken in about a ton a month from the public, and another three tons each month from commercial plastic recycling.

Carlson and other volunteers staffed the drop-off from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the second Saturday each month starting in June. They instruct recyclers on the do's and don'ts of plastics recycling.

-- the center generally accepts plastic stamped with a ''1'' or a ''2,'' indicating the grade of plastic.

-- the item has to have a neck (no yogurt tubs).

-- it can't have held anything hazardous.

-- no lids, but the rings that hold the lids in place are OK.

It doesn't take much to contaminate a load of plastic, Barton said.

''The problem is that people try and recycle too much,'' he said. ''They try and push the envelope by trying to do a shampoo bottle. By pushing the envelope they're actually harming the program.''

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