Talkeetna has had a recycling program since 2015, but now people are now able to drop off cardboard for the first time.
That hadn’t been possible before because the community didn’t have a baler, but after years of fundraising, Talkeetna Recycling Works bought one and transferred ownership to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
Volunteers took safety training to learn to operate the machine on their own.
“Today is the first day that we baled it without the borough crew to really supervise us, so we’re really excited. We’re on our way,” said Cici Schoenberger, the volunteer coordinator.
Volunteer Cary Birdsall says no one will transport cardboard unless it’s baled because of how inefficient it is.
“The volume doesn’t match up with how heavy it is,” Bridsall says. “These bales compress to 900 to 1,100 pounds and that is worth it.”
Getting to this point has been a huge undertaking. Schoenberger said the entire baler project has cost about $100,000 to date.
She said the borough paid for a large portion. Talkeetna Recycling Works raised about $30,000 in donations and grants in a town of about 900 people.
“[The funds were raised] through old-fashioned spaghetti dinners, jars at the businesses,” Schoenberger said.
Joe McAneney, the owner of marijuana dispensary High Expedition, says it doesn’t take long for cardboard to stack up.
“A lot of times it ended up just going into the trash because of the inconvenience to drive, to haul it, to separate it from the trash,” McAneney said.
He makes regular trips to the transfer stations the two days a week recycling is open. He said he’s happy to do his part to keep the materials out of the landfill.
“It’s a drop in the bucket compared to even the state of Alaska, but I think it’s a good example for other communities,” he said.
Diverting materials preserves the longevity of the landfill, which saves money. The borough’s Solid Waste Division manager estimates each new cell costs about $7 million.
Volunteers have two shipping containers filled with a backlog of cardboard — at least three bales’ worth — which they saved for months before the baler was running.
They’ve already sent six completed bales to the Valley Community for Recycling Solutions in Palmer.
Schoenberger said she’s pleased to see their work pay off.
“With a small community we can accomplish big things and that’s just very exciting,” Schoenberger said.
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