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Public-Private Partnership's Grant Enables Expansion of Recycling in Denali Borough

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Zero Landfill Initiative
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Denali Borough residents now have two locations to drop off recyclable materials. And they can now bring more types of materials to borough transfer stations in Cantwell and Healy, including aluminum cans, number 1 plastic bottles and cardboard.

Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker says the borough has for years been recycling some materials, including waste motor oil and scrap metal. And he says that’s diverted those materials from ending up in the borough landfill.

“The recycling of scrap-metal program has been probably the biggest saver of space in our landfill, frankly,” Walker said in an interview Monday.

That’s the whole point of recycling materials that would otherwise be buried. Because that extends the life of a landfill and saves taxpayers’ dollars that otherwise would have to be spent digging another hole, which in turn would require more maintenance and monitoring.

“It’s both the right thing to do and it does extend the life of our landfill,” he said, “which is a goal of ours.”

Walker says the automotive waste and scrap metal will still be recycled after the program is expanded. “But now,” he added, “we are able to offer consumer recycling of aluminum cans, plastic water bottles and cardboard at our Healy Transfer Station.”

The program expansion has come about through the efforts of an organization that includes representatives of the borough government and area nonprofits, including the Denali Education Center, along with area businesses, including some of the big tourist hotels around Denali National Park and Preserve. And a trucking company that’s transporting the materials to a facility in Southcentral.

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Credit Denali Education Center
Denali Borough residents may now drop off plastic water bottles, aluminum cans and cardboard at recycling trailers at the Cantwell and Healy transfer stations.

“It’s in partnership with Carlile Transportation,” Walker said. “They’ll be back-hauling these materials down to Palmer.”

The partnership got a grant to fund the program through the Zero Landfill Initiative, or ZLI, a program offered through the National Parks Service with funding from Subaru, the car-maker.

“The ZLI team has been a true champion in this effort, and the borough has been a willing partner,” the mayor said.

The Cantwell area has for years had a recycling program operated through a partnership between the Native Village of Cantwell and borough. And the expansion will enable the transfer station there to accept cardboard, and the placement of a truck trailer there and at the transfer site in Healy, the borough’s biggest population center.

“And when the trailer’s full, Carlile will bring the tractor and hook it up and take it on down to Palmer,” he said.

From there, the materials will be handled by the nonprofit Valley Community for Recycling Solutions, through a deal worked out with the Denali Borough partnership. Walker says he thinks the expanded program will be well-received by residents and, especially, businesses in the borough. But he cautions that for now it’s only temporarily funded.

“We’re excited about where we’ve gotten to,” he said, “and we believe that the partners will continue to seek out those funding sources. And we hope to be able to make it a long-lasting program.”

More information about the program and recycling in the borough is available borough's homepage and through the Denali Education Center.