PUBLISHED: 3:58 PM on Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Making recycling an everyday habit

Photo by Abby LaForce
  Bales of recycled products will be on display at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in recognition of Earth Day.
With the celebration of Earth Day, we find ourselves considering how to improve our environment and preserve the earth. While it's a great concept to commemorate the day, which falls on April 22, it's another to practice it every week, month or for life. It's convenient to throw away one plastic bottle without thinking but a lot harder to remove the endless amounts of plastic bottles piled in landfills.

Recycling saves energy, natural resources, clean air and water, landfill space, money, reduces global warming and it creates jobs. Simply put, it saves the earth.

"I recycle because it's easy, I recycle because it saves me money, but mostly I recycle for my children," said Diana Antaya, of Juneau, who visits the Juneau Recycling Center every week.

Households can drop off a large variety of recyclable products including: aluminum, paper(s), cardboard, newspaper, plastic bags, glass, steel/tin mixed paper cans and three types of plastic bottles at the Juneau Recycle Center located at 5600 Tonsgard.

For the fiscal year 2005, the Center recycled 449.65 tons and increased to 1299.75 tons in the fiscal year 2006.

They send baled recycling units to Smurfit-Stone Recycling Company in Washington about once a week in the summer, said recycling coordinator Glen Powell, who has worked in the department for three years and does hard-core hands-on work.

He points out for every 20 yards of pop bottles or 40 yards of plastic water/milk jugs (no. 2 bottles), they can make one compact bale.

Eric Vance, general manager of the center, said recycling rates (will) go up.

While households can drop off recyclable products, commercial recycling needs encouragement.

"We are trying to work with Waste Management for commercial recycling, and have something in the works; it needs to be approved by the assembly," said Judy Harvey of City and Borough of Juneau.

The bill specifies commercial businesses paying an annual fee, and then have access to the Recycling Center all year, Vance said.

"It should be a pretty good incentive to take the time (to recycle), and if you can show them they can save money," he said.

Lindsay Terry, independent owner of LD Recycling in Juneau, offers a pick-up service for local businesses. His ultimate goals include curbside service and his own recycling center where people don't have to pay for recycling, he said.

Terry, who is quitting his state job because of booming business, said Juneau is way behind times as far as recycling is concerned.

Clients include St. Vincent de Paul, low-incoming housing, apartment complexes and more.

On Earth Day, Terry will have a booth at Mendenhall Mall and if he gets 300 signatures, will purchase another truck specifically for curbside pick-up, he says.

"I'm going to turn this town around," Terry said.

Concerning curbside recycling on a larger level, Vance said it comes down to cost and what Juneau residents want to pay.

"It's a reality that could happen," he said.

Juneau establishment Tourism and Best Management Practices, a group of 60 local businesses with over 1200 employees, recently initiated a self-funded curbside recycling program.

The group aims to lessen the impact on the landfill from tourism businesses, said Bob James of T&BMP.

A local business that's all about recycling and a great example to other companies is the Alaskan Brewery Company. With leftover yeast and gain from their beer-brewing process, they put it toward good use.

"We have it dried and shipped down south, and given to cattle farmers," said Janelle Harrie, of the Brewery. "We didn't feel right about dumping it and adding to the (landfill)."

David Wilson, in brewery operations, said it's roughly 25,000 pounds a week of the dried stuff (grain).

He said they recycle their yeast and have it shipped to Seattle, where it gets mixed with corn and fed to cattle.

Other by-products, which are recycled through soil production, are given to Little Diggers and Landscaping, of Juneau. Wilson said they mix the bi-products with peat moss and other materials for top-soil, calling it "dietamacious earth."

Additionally, the Brewery takes their cardboard to Juneau's Recycling Center and delivers their shrink wrap to Costco, who bales it, according to employee Tom West.

Another advocate of recycling is Juneau's National Weather Service office, NOAA, who actually has their own recycling set-up and was one of the first businesses to instigate the process.

"One of the first things they did was set up for recycling; they have a recycle committee at NOAA," said Janet Grange, now retired from the Waste Management Program of City and Borough of Juneau.

For those who recycle through convenience, Safeway does offer recycle bins for plastic bags; they also collect corrugated cardboard and paper, which is sent to Seattle.

At home, resident members can keep in mind the anthem: Reduce, reuse and recycle.

Simply place recycle bins in busy waste areas of the house, such as the kitchen or office. Fill with recyclable items and always "think" before throwing anything away.

Beyond the household, apply a recyclable way of life to events such as picnic outings (where large amounts of paper and plastic products are wasted), camping and boating.

To cut down on plastic bags, use a canvas shopping bag instead, facilitate hoards of baggies for trash-can liners or give them to the library or Salvation Army.

Avid recycler, Corle McPherson of Juneau, said, "Purchase with awareness. Really, you don't need five plastic bags for one small basket of food."

If you habitually visit coffee shops, look at the long line in front of you and consider all those paper cups getting tossed in the garbage and ending up in the landfill-bring your own coffee thermos.

Try composting vegetable waste; it actually enriches the soil of garden beds.

To cut down on paper waste, remove your name from junk mail lists. According to, four million tons of junk mail is produced yearly, and Americans spend over $275 million dollars to dispose of junk mail annually. Worst of all, an average of 41 pounds of junk mail are sent to every adult annually, 44 percent goes to a landfill unopened.

Make it a ritual to visit the Juneau Recycling Center every week, and know you're contributing not only to a good cause but a necessary cause.