Fairbanks Rescue Mission executive director Rodney Gaskins gave an update on the agency's recycling program for the June 21 meeting.
The Rescue Mission launched the recycling program almost a year ago (on September 5, 2009) as a way to change the focus from being just a shelter to being a launching pad for re-entry into the working world. Residents at the facility have a choice of paying $12/night that they stay there or trading labor (3 hours/night). The recycling program has six jobs residents can perform, ranging from the entry-level recyclable receiving to forklift operations to learning the logistics and overall operations of the program. Because of the job-training services, the program receives support from the Department of Labor and welfare-to-work programs.

Gaskins said they learned from previous attempts to start and sustain recycling programs in Fairbanks before starting up the new program. They worked with ALPAR to secure free shipping for the recyclables: the materials are back-hauled to Anchorage on trucks that would otherwise be empty; the transportation companies get a tax write-off for hauling the materials.  Currently, the program handles cardboard/paper and aluminum - these are both the easiest to bale and also have the highest market value.  They sell the paper at market rates in Anchorage, but are in the process of setting up a contract with Thermacool in Wasilla; the fiber would be purchased at a contract price and used for blown-in insulation.

The program recycled its millionth pound in mid-June and averages 30,000 pounds per truckload to Anchorage. They see approximately 170 cars each weekend and have about 200 businesses that regularly drop off recyclables during the week.

Gaskins noted that unlike many recycling programs, this one is not currently supported by the municipality, even though it diverts a significant volume from the landfill. He has a proposal in to the borough for use of the borough's sorting facility at the landfill. This would allow the program to accept more materials, including plastics and glass. They are also looking at partnership with Fort Greely and Fort Wainwright.

More information on the program is available online at http://fairbanksrescuemission.org/frmrecyclecenter.htm.