Valley Community for recycling solutions: facility grows with population and interest in recycling.

Author:White, Rindi
Position::SPECIAL SECTION: Environmental Services

Businesses seeking to achieve a "zero waste" goal may soon be able to reach that goal, thanks to important upgrades at Valley Community for Recycling Solutions' (VCRS) facility near Palmer.

VCRS this year installed a Harris Badger, two-ram, horizontal, auto-tie baler, an important piece of equipment that will allow the group to handle more waste and recovered resources faster and with the same number of staff. The nonprofit also added an enclosed area where residential customers can drive through and drop off their recycled goods.

An in-floor conveyor feeds the baler; VCRS staff put sorted materials onto the conveyor, and the materials are carried up into a hopper, where they're crushed together into a giant brick shape, then automatically tied and pushed out of the machine. The nonprofit previously used a single-stroke, manual-tie baler that didn't work as efficiently as the new equipment, VCRS Executive Director Mollie Boyer says.

"We can handle five times the amount of material with this equipment," she says. "We quite doing outreach for eight years because we couldn't handle more than our natural growth [with the previous baler]."

Growing Fast to Meet Growing Demand

Mat-Su continues to be the fastest growing area of the state. In the last ten years, the population has nearly doubled to more than ninety-six thousand people, according to the Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs.

People moving to the Valley, and those who already live there, want to be able to recycle their waste. After much planning, a small group of people began holding recycling opportunities in the Valley sixteen years ago. People drove up with cars jammed full of tin cans, plastic bottles, newspapers, and cardboard (among other things), and volunteers stood out in the weather in windy parking lots to help people sort their recyclables into the right bins.

The demand for recycling opportunities grew and the group expanded from seasonal to monthly to twice-weekly and then five-day-a-week recycling opportunities. Meanwhile, organizers set a goal of having a recycling facility where people could easily drop off their newspapers and aluminum cans any day of the week, a place that would make curbside recycling an option and allow businesses and government entities to make recycling part of their daily operations.

A large portion of that goal was reached in 2010 when VCRS opened its new recycling center adjacent to the Mat-Su Borough Landfill on North 49th State...

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