Recycling in Alaska

This is a good example of how, sometimes, communication is so difficult. I know the words you’re using, but are you using them they same way I mean them?

I asked one of my co-workers if Fairbanks had a recycling program. He explained that there was a specially roofed over section at the transfer station where I could put things that I thought were still in good enough condition to give away. The roof is a niceity provided by the borough, so that things don’t get wet or snowed on. Did I mention that I haul my own trash to the landfill weekly? Lots of people who live outside the city do. This is why it’s useful to have a truck for work here; if you live outside of the city, and there’s a lot who do, you always need a truck to haul your garbage to the transfer station (for free!) on Saturday, get a load of water in your water tank, (lots of people aren’t on the city water) put a dog box on, etc. BUT, back to the recycling thing.

So, I said to Jim, “I’m not sure we’re talking about the same thing. I’m talking about a place to take papers, cans and bottles.” Jim said, “Wow. I know what you mean, but I’m not sure we have that here.” (!!) “Recycling” to him meant giving something away for repurposing by someone else. This is quite a hobby here; “repurposing” is the polite term; “dumpster diving” the more direct one. I’ve seen several people looking around at the transfer station, every Saturday. After asking several other people, all of whom are pretty brainy librarians who have been here a long, long time, I discovered that even though it’s been tried in the past, **there is no recycling anywhere in Fairbanks!**

Wow. It’s been weeks now, and I’m *still* trying to figure out how *not* to throw away paper, glass, tin and aluminum! It just seems *wrong*! While I was calling around to try to get another answer I was happier with, if only I reached the right person, I called the landfill and asked the nice lady there if there was a recycling program in Fairbanks:

“Um, not really.”

I mentioned that someone comes and gets the paper in the library that’s marked “recycle”, but I didn’t know what actually happened to it.

“Well, they might tell you yes, but even if they pick it up, it’s probably going in the landfill.”

Gotta love that quirky Fairbanks humor. 🙂 I guess it costs so much to truck it out of state to market, nobody can make money at it. But, the student union has a “aluminum can recycle” bin at the Taku park and ride lot, I can bring the paper to work, and Wal-Mart takes the plastic bags at their entrance. I can save unthreaded beer bottles for home brewing. I guess that’ll have to do.



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12 responses to “Recycling in Alaska

  1. Rob

    So it sounds like “Northern Exposure” may not have been too far off the mark!?!
    Keep it up. Some of are living vicariously through other peoples experiences!


  2. Lori

    Keep your head up, I’m sure if anyone can start a recycle project that will stick it’ll be you fearless one:)

  3. I too spent the first few weeks here trying to figure out the recycling mumbo in this city and experienced a similar pain with throwing out recyclables! You look like you got further than I did…

  4. Scott & Julie

    Hey Jen! What a great idea! Start a recycling movement and get the city interested! Show ’em how it’s done “down South” in Seattle. 🙂

  5. Heather

    Do you think Al Gore, the latest Peace Nobel Prize winner,
    needs an invitation to Fairbanks, Alaska? He could start some recycling.
    You’d put him up I’m sure!

  6. loudlibrarian1965

    Thanks, everybody, for the comments! If I ever get tired of being a librarian, I guess I know what I could try next – recycling business or writing. 🙂

  7. Nathan

    Wow Jen you seem to be having a fascinating life, keep up the blog. I feel like I know you better then I ever have before.


  8. loudlibrarian1965

    Thanks, Nathan, for the nice words! 🙂

  9. loudlibrarian1965

    So, here’s the epilogue on the recycling thing; the paper that is picked up in my office every week is picked up by Casey, the developmentally disabled man that the library has employed for the last 22 years. He picks it up and shreds it, then it gets donated to whoever wants it for dog bedding, etc. Another example of repurposing, Alaska style! Recently, the borough commission tried to enact legislation that said people could no longer scavenge from the transfer sites. *That* was a deadly error! One of my co-workers told me that when the public was invited to comment on the commission’s “public comment” night, they had the biggest turnout in recent memory, and almost all were there to protest the possible loss of their scavenging rights! Gives long time Fairbanksans a warm fuzzy feeling, in this increasingly busier, more yuppified city that so many colorful Fairbanksans felt that strongly. WHOLE HOUSES have been built, furnished, and insulated with things scavenged FREE from the transfer site. I am not kidding about this; my co-worker knows more than one person like that. So, with a warm and fuzzy feeling, I know feel better about putting my old newspapers out under the roofed area for someone to pick up – they might end up inside someone’s house walls for insulation, or in some musher’s dog pens, or even taken home by someone who wants to read them too!

    Recycling, Alaska style.

  10. Jennifer

    It is very frustrating living here with no where to really recycle. Although the “re-purpose” portion of the dump is a begining I think that if enough people were to talk to the right people we could get something accomplished. I will support you and think lots of other “earth friendly” people will to. There are lots of us living in Fairbanks, just as frustrated as you are.

  11. *Sigh*. Yep. I think the will is out there, but if folks were *really* interested, I think the line for the Interior Green Star electronics recycling would’ve been longer. The problem, as I see it, was the cost. If folks had some place to send plastic, glass, paper and tin to be recycled *and not have to pay for it*, I’m sure there would be many more takers. This is why the covered area at the transfer station is popular. It’s free. But, the recycling program would have to be self supporting.

    BTW, I continue to be *astounded* with the amount of garbage I create when I have to throw out plastic, glass, cans, and paper. So much more compared to when I took them to the recycling station in WW.

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