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Recycling can be confusing. We have a good solution.

  • Author: Jill Farris
    | Opinion
  • Updated: January 14
  • Published January 14

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.

Recycling can be confusing! Fortunately, there is a global and national movement to fix our problem. The mission of standardizing recycling labels on bins across the U.S. is gaining traction – from Denali National Park to schools, businesses and sports stadiums. The easier it is for people to “recycle right,” the faster recycling becomes a solution to creating a less wasteful economy. At least that’s what we’ve learned on the job at Valley Community for Recycling Solutions (VCRS), the local nonprofit focusing on partnerships and training plus advocacy in order to reduce waste in this great land.

Education holds so much value when it instructs how to save our natural resources and shows what happens to reusable materials. Get the most bang for your buck! Turn waste products back into useful materials instead of burying reusable resources in a landfill. An efficient circular economy is achieved without extra costs or losses.

The standardized labels on bins help teach consumers how to “recycle right.” As part of the National Park Zero Landfill Initiative, the nonprofit Recycle Across America (RAA) is fixing the crisis at federal and community levels with their solution: society-wide standardized labels for recycling bins.

We use RAA’s standardized recycling label system in our drive-through bay and in our classroom, thanks to a generous grant from Subaru of America. Also, attendees at the Alaska State Fair had a chance to see the great work of RAA in action, and to appreciate the huge, nationwide impact a simple label change can have to improve recycling effectiveness.

This summer, RAA staff members brought us new signage on their way to Denali National Park; enhancing major improvements to recycling recovery. The Zero Landfill Initiative, a pilot program, was introduced by the National Parks Conservation Association and Subaru with the goal of reducing the total amount of landfill-bound waste in three parks. After upgrading systems at Denali National Park’s recycling facility, up to 46% of waste has been diverted. Along the road to recycling, VCRS is one of the many partners working to make this program sustainable. We aim to help pave the way for more participants to take the extra step to find a recycling bin. We have been given a great opportunity to spread this message; pushing it forward from our rural backyard into the growing population of Mat-Su community schools, homes, and businesses.

Continued efforts to nurture the culture could help the Matanuska Valley become zero waste in 2049 by building relationships with partners who share the same beliefs. “The future belongs to those who understand that doing more with less is compassionate, prosperous and enduring, and thus more intelligent, even competitive,” as sustainability advocate Paul Hawken said.

Jill Farris works in education and outreach for Valley Community Recycling Solutions, a Palmer-based recycling nonprofit organization.

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