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Photos: New Valley recycling center opens

Valley Community for Recycling Solutions Executive Director Mollie Boyer, with large scissors, ceremoniously opens the new recycling center in Palmer on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. The 23,600 square foot facility has an enclosed drop-off space and a larger baler, which will allow the facility to divert more waste from the landfill.
Loren Holmes photo
Valley Community for Recycling Solutions Executive Director Mollie Boyer speaks at the opening of the new recycling center in Palmer on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. The 23,600 square foot facility has an enclosed drop-off space and a larger baler, which will allow the facility to divert more waste from the landfill.
Loren Holmes photo
Bales of plastic bottles are stacked inside the new Palmer recycling center on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. The 23,600 square foot facility has an enclosed drop-off space and a larger baler, which will allow the facility to divert more waste from the landfill.
Loren Holmes photo
Cardboard is placed on a conveyor belt, part of a new baling system at the Palmer recycling center on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. The large baler will allow the facility to divert more waste from the landfill.
Loren Holmes photo
Valley Community for Recycling Solutions’ new recycling center in Palmer. The 23,600 square foot facility has an enclosed drop-off space and a larger baler, which will allow the facility to divert more waste from the landfill. Wednesday, June 18, 2014.
Loren Holmes photo
Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- Long-sought upgrades at the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s main recycling facility are expected to start chipping away at the growing heap of garbage headed to the landfill right next door.

A ribbon-cutting and celebration of the improvements at the center, located at the heart of the borough’s population center between Palmer and Wasilla, drew about 100 onlookers on Tuesday.

The $5.5 million upgrade includes an enclosed two-lane public drop-off area and a high-capacity baler that spit out cubes of cardboard boxes to “oohs” and “aahs” from spectators Tuesday. The facility also got a new building in 2010 and an in-floor conveyor in 2012. The center is operated for the borough by a nonprofit group, Valley Recycling for Community Solutions.

The nonprofit started out in the parking lot of the original Wasilla Wal-Mart in 1998 and now boasts more than 400 volunteers and eight staff positions.

Speaker after speaker at the ribbon-cutting -- the “ribbon” was actually a string of tied-together newspaper bags -- said the improvements mark the culmination of 16 years of persistence.

Read more: Improved Valley recycling facility stands to cut down on Mat-Su waste stream