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Glass recycling has at long last returned to Anchorage, again

Suzanna CaldwellAlaska Dispatch News
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The bins are in place and finally, after a years-long hiatus, Anchorage residents can again recycle glass, starting Wednesday.

The municipality announced that collection bins are up and ready to start accepting discarded glass at the RockTenn Anchorage Recycling Facility in South Anchorage off Dowling Road. Glass can not be collected in curbside recycling bins.

It's been a long time coming for Alaska's largest city. After years of struggle, glass collection ceased in 2009, when the company in charge of recycling the glass, E.K. Industries, couldn't find a market for the product.

Central Recycling Services (CRS) spent last summer trying to figure out what to do with the 800 tons of glass left over from the previous recycling company. The company has come up with a pea gravel-like product, similar to the type of gravel found on playgrounds, which can be used as bedding for utilities or construction backfill. With the leftover glass used up, CRS is ready to start collecting glass from the public.

On Wednesday, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) announced that it has approved a new highway specification allowing the pebbles of recycled glass to be used in building highway and airport subsurfaces.

“ADOT&PF recognizes the value of reducing the amount of waste in landfills,” said Pat Kemp, ADOT&PF acting commissioner. "We know that recycled products specifically processed and manufactured for construction work will not affect long-term performance."

While eco-conscious residents might have heartache over tossing glass into local landfills, glass itself is not a large part of the Anchorage waste stream. Based on national averages, a city the size of Anchorage (population of about 300,000) produces some 15,000 tons of glass a year -- about 5 percent of Anchorage's annual 301,000 tons of waste hauled to the landfill. It's estimated that under the new glass recycling initiative, about 10 to 30 percent of the city's total glass waste will be collected. In previous incarnations of glass recycling in Anchorage, about 20 to 30 tons of glass was recycled each week, equal to about  1,500 tons -- 500 dump trucks -- being diverted from the landfill.

Kauai Alpha, recycling director for Central Recycling, said one wine bottle might seem like a lot of waste, but it crushes down into only a handful of the pea gravel-like product.

Central Recycling Service will have the glass delivered from the RockTenn facility to its location near Ship Creek. Alpha said CRS focuses on demolition and construction recycling and asked that Anchorage residents not bring their glass to the facility located near Ship Creek.

Besides local Target stores, which recycle a small amount of glass, the RockTenn facility at at 6161 Rosewood Street, off Dowling Road, will be the only location in Anchorage collecting glass. The city said that in the spring collection might expand to include an additional drop-off site.

Contact Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at)alaskadispatch.com

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