Top Ten Recycling Tips from ALPAR

RECYCLING IT RIGHT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER!

Recycling sorting facility

Recycling it right is the best way to make sure it is recycled at all…

Recycling our waste has many benefits but the business of recycling is changing. In 2017 and 2018, commodity prices for materials dropped mainly due to 1) high levels of contamination collected from homes and businesses:, and 2) changing international markets especially in China and other Asian countries. Our US recycling processors are working hard to adjust but it will take time to regain the more robust markets we have had in the past. Clean, sorted materials are still in demand, but contamination is a deal killer.

That’s why it’s crucial that we are diligent about sorting our recyclables and making sure we put the right stuff in the right bin. When we take the time to sort materials we insure recycling is economically viable and sustainable long term. And, we will continue to reap recycling’s benefits; resource conservation, energy savings, landfills with longer life and recycled materials for new products.

We have great recycling opportunities in the Railbelt in large part thanks to ALPAR’s most excellent donors: Alaska’s shipping companies: Matson, TOTE Maritime, Lynden and the Alaska Railroad. Their contributions that help move our materials to market in Seattle make recycling economically feasible for our communities, our residents and our businesses. We owe them a debt of gratitude for making recycling work in Alaska.

Thanks, recyclers! Your efforts can make the difference!

TIP 1: BE A RECYCLER NOT A WISH-CYLER!

Wish-cycling: When a recycler is not sure if something is recyclable but they wish it were so they throw it in the bin. Results may vary but usually elicits very sad faces at the recycling center.

Even a little contamination can hurt. Find out what is recyclable and what isn’t which sometimes may take a little extra effort: every community has it’s own set of rules because every community takes only a specific menu of materials. We know recycling can be confusing. Example: Putting plastic bags or boxes filled with your newspapers or aluminum cans in the bin is a contaminant. You must empty bags or boxes of material into the bin and then recycle the bag or box in the right bin.

TIP 2: KNOW YOUR CURBSIDE RECYCLING RULES!

Curbside recycling is only available in Anchorage at this time although there are a few exceptions. This mix of material is sent to Seattle for sorting and it must be contaminant free. Here’s the list of items that goes into the cart: #1 PETE BOTTLES (soda, water, juice, caps OK,) #1 PETE CLAMSHELLS (like clear salad containers and Costco fruit containers,) #2 HDPE BOTTLES and JUGS ONLY (milk jugs, detergent bottles with a neck, caps OK,) CARDBOARD, PAPER AND PAPERBOARD (junk mail, magazines, newspaper, cereal boxes,) ALUMINUM CANS, STEEL CANS. That’s a lot of stuff but there is also a lot of stuff that can’t go in your cart. Get that high score on your RAT! (Recycling Aptitude Test) Note: This is not really a thing!

THE BIG NOS: PLASTIC BAGS and FILM. Plastic Bags/film can be dropped off at the Anchorage Recycling Center, or plastic shopping bags can be dropped off at major retailers. But no bags and film in curbside carts: this stuff interferes with sorting equipment causing big problems. NO Glass in curbside either. Glass devalues the curbside material and shards get trapped in paper. We recycle glass locally in Anchorage. So glass can only be recycled at the Anchorage Recycling Center or at the Anchorage Regional Landfill.

TIP 3: PLASTICS ARE COMPLICATED—IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT (or find the information you seek!)

You got this! Did you know there are almost 30 different plastic commodities in the marketplace and in most places in Alaska we only take 3 of those? Commodities are different than plastic resins. The number that you see in the chasing arrow is a RESIN number. Commodities can be different types but with the same resin number. All plastic products are not created equal: a bottle will have a chemical added to the resin that is different than the chemical added to a clamshell so they are basically NOT the same. # 1 PETE Bottles is a commodity type. #1 PET NONBOTTLE Rigid is another commodity type. Bottles are much more valuable than non-bottles. No wonder it can be confusing!

Plastic has a very low tolerance for contamination because new products require specific material, so sort, sort, sort! Only three types of plastic are accepted in Anchorage: (That makes it simpler! The rest should be thrown out or reused.)

  1. PETE soda/water bottles – With a neck – CAPS OK! NO Salad-bar type containers*
  2. HDPE plastic jugs and bottles – With a neck – CAPS OK! NO butter/yogurt-type tubs or buckets.
  3. Plastic Bags and film/shrink wrap can ONLY be dropped off at the Anchorage Recycling Center. Plastic Shopping Bags can also be dropped off at local grocery stores in bins located in entryways.

*Exception: Curbside carts allow #1PETE Clamshells (non bottles) such as clear, salad containers, Costco fruit containers, etc.

If you are not sure, don’t recycle it –NO plastics are taken that are marked as a #4, #5, #6 OR #7 OR a #2 HDPE CONTAINER THAT IS NOT A BOTTLE OR JUG except under special circumstances – example: Nursery Pot Recycling in the summer in Anchorage – special event only!

TIP 4: EMPTY CONTAINERS!

Make sure all containers are empty of liquids or food. Remove plastic sleeves from newspapers.. Important: REMOVE caps and lids from Glass bottles and jars. A quick rinse is all that is necessary and labels can be left on. Caps can be reattached to plastic bottles but make sure they are empty first.

TIP 5: DROP-OFF IS A GOOD THING!

When you drop off your materials already sorted at the recycling center or drop off sites, they retain more value than mixed curbside. Find your closest drop site for your recyclables in Anchorage (see map). Newspapers and aluminum cans can be dropped in bins at many Anchorage CARRS/Safeway parking lots and several Anchorage schools.

Many materials are accepted at Westrock’s Anchorage Recycling Center at 6161 Rosewood (off Dowling between Old and New Seward behind the NAPA Store.). FLAT Cardboard, Newspaper, Mixed Paper, Aluminum Cans, Steel Cans. Foil and Soft aluminum like pie plates, #1 PETE Plastic Bottles, #2 HDPE Plastic Jugs and Bottles, (CAPS OK!), Plastic Bags and Film, and Glass Bottles and Jars (NO LIDS on glass please.).
The Anchorage Regional Landfill recycling drop off hours are Monday-Saturday, 8am – 5pm for these materials only: FLAT Cardboard, Newspaper, Mixed Paper, Aluminum Cans, #1 PETE Plastic Bottles, #2 HDPE Plastic Jugs and Bottles, (CAPS OK!) and Glass Bottles and Jars (NO LIDS!).

IMPORTANT NOTE: Plastic Bags and Film can be dropped off at the Anchorage Recycling Center only. Plastic shopping bags can be dropped off at most major retailers.

Check out what the Valley Community for Recycling Solutions Recycling Center will take in Palmer and what the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s recycling programs take! In Juneau, go here to learn where to recycle.

TIP 6: RECYCLE OLD ELECTRONICS AND APPLIANCES

With the massive amounts of technology in the world today, our landfills are brimming with defunct computer systems, cellular phones, televisions, printers, and more. Instead of ditching your obsolete tech toys into the trash you can take them to TOTAL RECLAIM in Anchorage or call your local electronics store to see whether they provide a recycling option. Some landfills are taking electronics for recycling. Check with your local landfill or visit their website. This may not be free but it’s the right thing to do due to hazardous materials that are contained in many electronics.

Some electronics stores will take back certain items and provide a credit, or can put you in touch with companies to assist you. The manufacturer of many products also accepts unwanted items that can be refurbished or used for parts.
For many old appliances, it may be dangerous to simply discard in the trash. This is especially important for fridges and freezers that were manufactured before 1995, as they may have a type of insulation (CFC-11) that can be destructive to the environment. To help you dispose of these appliances in a safe manner, check with your local landfill, or with a local metal recycler such as Central Recycling Services or Alaska Scrap & Recycling in Anchorage or C&R Metal Recycling in Fairbanks.

TIP 7: GLASS IS RECYCLED LOCALLY IN ANCHORAGE!

Since 2012, we have a solution for glass recycling in Anchorage and it was not an easy thing to accomplish! Thanks to Central Recycling Services who make Recycled Glass Aggregate for use in construction projects right here in Anchorage. All glass jars and bottles collected for recycling at the recycling center or the landfill eventually go here. NO ceramics, window or thermal glass accepted. Glass bottles and jars are recycled locally and can be dropped off at 2 locations ONLY: Westrock’s Anchorage Recycling Center and the Anchorage Regional Landfill on Hiland Drive.

TIP 8: RECYCLING: IT’S NOT JUST IN THE KITCHEN!

Don’t trash your soap or shampoo bottles (#2 HDPE BOTTLE) and toilet paper rolls (MIXED PAPER) just because they’re in the bathroom! Office paper and junk mail are important to the recycling system, too. Take off the plastic sleeves and recycle those in bags/film. Think about a few more bins in the house!

TIP 9: PIZZA LOVERS LOVE THIS! PIZZA BOXES CAN NOW BE RECYCLED!

Technology is always evolving and because of that, pizza boxes are now OK in most places– just dump out the crumbs and cheese before recycling. If your community doesn’t yet accept whole pizza boxes for recycling, half is better than none, so tear off the grease-free top and put it in the bin!

TIP 10: BUY RECYCLED—CLOSE THE LOOP!

If you are recycling to minimize your carbon footprint, it makes sense to use the same principles when purchasing new items.
When you buy items made from recycled materials you are using your dollars to vote for greener business practices, letting companies know that products made in an eco-friendly manner matter to you. In addition, items that are made from recycled goods are more likely to be recyclable again once you are finished using them.

Have some of your own recycling tips? Share on ALPAR’s FB page and keep it clean!