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Recycle Center Fills Up During "Soft" Opening


The Central Recycling Facility in Fairbanks is slowly opening up to take plastic and paper after a two-month closure.

Recycling Coordinator Sean Huntington is calling last week a “soft” opening, without a formal announcement. But people found out anyway.

“Many residents have held on to their materials for the two months that we were closed. It does put some stress in the warehouse.”

Huntington says a normal intake day last year would be about 150 customers; last week it was about 250 people per day. Now the Fairbanks North Star Borough Solid Waste Department will evaluate this test run, to see how new procedures affect the workflow.

“Due to the COVID pandemic, we want one customer per vehicle to get out of their vehicle with a face covering. We want them to maintain six feet distance between any staff. We have two lanes coming up, instead of just one lane, so we have two drop-off areas.”

Credit Robyne / KUAC
Masked customers work apart in two lanes of traffic after the facility was reopened last week.

Because last week filled up the warehouse, the Central Recycling Facility is not yet open to commercial users.

The facility will continue to be closed every Sunday and Monday, even though staff members come in on Mondays to catch up with processing the recyclables. The center takes only paper and cardboard, plastic bottles with the Number 1, plastic jugs with the Number 2, aluminum drink cans, and used electronics like computers. The electronics sit for three days then go to the volunteer group Green Star. The rest are bundled up and shipped south.

“We put that into a trailer and it gets hauled via the Alaska Railroad down to Anchorage, where it is accepted at the WestRock warehouse, and then it gets barged down to Seattle. Recently, though, we’ve started a procedure, where we’re going to try to send cardboard and paper straight to Seattle, and there is some cost savings to the Central Recycling Facility for doing so.”

He says they can only take clean materials, with no food residue on the paper or in the bottles. But they do not need to be washed, just rinsed out and the labels removed.

“We don’t take food containers, we don’t take glass, and we also do not take tin cans.”

Huntington says many customers that came through last week seemed to know what to expect, had their materials sorted as required and waited patiently with long lines.

“I would say, for the most part, people have been following the rules, wearing their face coverings to flatten the curve, doing our part. And it’s gone very well.”