Recycling Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Where can I get recycling bins?
Does Green Star pick up recyclables?
Where can I drop off recyclables?
Are there any curbside pickup services in Anchorage?
Why do I have to sort my recyclables?
Where can I recycle computers and other electronics?
Can I get money for recycling aluminum cans?
How can I tell aluminum and steel cans apart?
Is there a difference between steel and tin?
What types of metals can be recycled in Anchorage and how should they be prepared?
Can I recycle propane canisters?
How is cardboard different from paperboard?
What plastics are recyclable in Anchorage?
What do the codes on the bottom of plastic bottles mean?
Why can't all #1 and #2 plastics be recycled?
Why can't plastic bottle caps be recycled?
Why do other communities collect more types of plastics?
Where do the recyclables go after I drop them off?
What materials are used here in Alaska?
Where can I ask more recycling questions?
Many different types of recycling bins are available in Anchorage. You can purchase bins specifically designed for recycling, purchase trash bins that can be easily modified for recycling, or scrounge containers that, with some creativity, can be used for recycling. See below for a list of companies in Anchorage that sell recycling containers. Visit the Green Star Tool Kit for labels to print out or stickers to order from Green Star to label your recycling bins.
Alaska Warehouse Equipment & Supply
Arctic Office Products
Furbish Chemical & Supply
Grainger Industrial Supply
|Northern Office Supply
7120 Old Seward Highway
Stocks various sizes of recycling bins.
The Home Depot
Unisource Worldwide, Inc.
Unitech of Alaska
Waxie Sanitary Supply
Other ideas for recycling bins:
- Use paper boxes (the cardboard boxes that reams of paper come in) for collecting office or mixed paper near desks and copy machines,
- Ask bakeries if they have any large cardboard barrels for sale or free of charge (baking supplies are often shipped in these barrels and they can be easily modified to collect recyclables),
- Contact large hotels to see if they have large plastic detergent containers available (many hotels order laundry detergent for washing sheets and towels in large durable plastic barrels), or
- Contact car washes about metal or plastic drums or barrels that can be used for outdoor or maintenace area collection of recyclables (car washes purchase soap and car wax in large barrels).
Some local curbside recycling companies will provide outdoor collection bins. See the question about curbside below for contact information for these companies.
No, Green Star offers technical assistance and guidance to help businesses and organizations implement and maintain waste prevention and recycling programs. We do not collect or transport recyclables. There are, however, numerous drop-off locations and several curbside pickup services in Anchorage. See the questions below for details.
The primary recycling drop-off site in Anchorage is at the Anchorage Recycling Center, operated by RockTenn (562-2267), located at 6161 Rosewood Street. To get there, exit from the Seward Highway at Dowling and head west about one block. Just west of the NAPA auto parts store, turn south (left) onto Rosewood Street. The recycling Center is just behind NAPA and drop-off is accessible 24 hours a day for the following materials:
- Mixed paper
- Corrugated cardboard
- Shredded office paper
- Aluminum cans
- Steel cans
- Glass bottles and jars
- Plastic bags and films
- #1 PET plastic bottles and jugs
- #2 HDPE plastic bottles and jugs
During regular business hours (Monday through Friday 9-noon and 12:30pm- 4pm), you can drop off the following materials:
- Scrap metal
- Aluminum cans for redemption
There also is a drop-off area at the Anchorage Regional Landfill off the Hiland Road Exit of the Glenn Highway in Eagle River. This site is open during landfill hours (Mon-Fri 7:30am - 5pm and Sat 8am - 5pm) and accepts the following materials:
- Mixed paper
- Corrugated cardboard
- Aluminum cans
- #1 PET plastic bottles and jugs
- #2HDPE plastic bottles and jugs
Besides the recycling center and landfill, recycling is available for a few items around town. Aluminum cans and newspapers can be taken to bins in the parking lots at most Carrs locations in Anchorage and Eagle River.
For information about additional recyclables and where to take them, visit Appendix C of Green Star's "Becoming a Green Star" guide. This section provides details about the following materials:
- Cooking grease
- Fluorescent lamps and ballasts
- Foam peanuts
- Organic waste
- Scrap metals
- Scrap tires
- Toner cartridges
- Used oil and filters
- Wood and pallets
Yes, several curbside recycling exists in Anchorage. Some specialize in commercial collection, some residential, and some do both. Some collect a wide range of materials, while others specialize in one or two items. Please contact specific companies for details about services, materials accepted, costs etc.
Alaska Waste - Commerical service - most materials
Girdwood Recycling -- Residential and Commercial service - most materials
Girmscheid Enterprises - Residential and Commercial service - most materials
Mobile Metals, Inc. - Residential and Commercial service - metals only
Municipality of Anchorage's Solid Waste Services - In fall 2008, SWS began offering curbside recycling as part of automated trash collection to its residential can/bag customers. Visit the web site or call 343-6250 to determine if you are in an area receiving the service.
Recycle Alaska - Residential and Commercial service - paper shredding/recycling service
Shred Alaska - Commercial service - office paper shredding/recycling only
Anchorage's recycling center is only a transfer facility for recyclables rather than a materials sorting facility (MRF - pronounced "murf" in the recycling world). This means the folks at the center only consolidate and bale the materials and ship it to other facilities that may sort, clean, and process it. With only a baler, there is no way to sort plastics from steel,aluminum from paper, and materials that are contaminated either bring little or no profit or they are discarded as trash, depending on the level of contamination. The materials that you bring to the recycling center already separated are sold for more money than the commingled materials collected at the curbside, which are baled and sent to sorting facilities "as is."
Anchorage has several options for computer and electronics recycling:
The Municipality of Anchorage's Solid Waste Services offers electronics recycling for businesses at the Anchorage Regional Landfill. Call Solid Waste Services at 343-6262 for more information.
Total Reclaim, Inc., accepts electronics, as well as fluorescent lamps and refrigerants, from businesses and residents. The fee for electronics is about 35¢/lb for most items or $18 each for computer monitors. Contact Total Reclaim at 561-0544 for more information. The company is located in the Huffman Business Park.
Other companies that will accept computers and electronics for reuse or recycling are listed in Appendix C in the "Becoming a Green Star" guide and E-News articles provide information about places that will refurbish or reuse computers, as well as local and national organizations that will accept computers for recycling if you package and ship them.
Yes, if you bring your aluminum cans to the Anchorage Recycling Center during regular business hours, the recycling center staff can weigh your cans and give you cash back. The amount varies based on the current market value but it is in the range of 20¢/lb.
If you have a can that you are not sure about, just get out a magnet. Aluminum is non-ferrous, so a magnet will NOT stick to it, while a steel can is ferrous, so a magent will stick.
What many of us refer to as tin cans are actually steel cans. Food cans are made of steel with only a very thin layer of tin on them. In fact, one ton of steel cans only contains 5 to 6 pounds of tin. This is down from about 50 pounds of tin per ton of steel in the 1930s. Despite the decrease, many people still call them tin cans.
Despite the small amount of tin, the revenue from the recovered metals is about 1/4 from the tin and 3/4 from the steel. Tin has a higher value per pound and the only domestic source of tin is through recycling processes.
The Anchorage Recycling Center accepts household-generated metals like aluminum beverage cans and steel food cans. The Recycling Center also will accept nonferrous metals, such as copper, brass, aluminum, and stainless steel, during business hours. To receive a higher price for the metals, remove all foreign objects. The facility does not accept iron or white goods.
Alaska Metal Recycling offers a flyer that explains what it will accept and what it won't.
Total Reclaim also will accept
- Refrigerators and Freezers
- Air Conditioners
- Washers and Dryers
Recycling fees apply for most items and volume discounts are available. Please contact Total Reclaim at 561-0544 for more details. Recycling services include the removal of refrigerants, oils and other materials that can pose a threat to the environment if not properly managed.
Photo right: Green Star staff takes a tour with Gary Smith of Total Reclaim's Anchorage facility. This circa 1960s refrigerator was recently dropped off by its owner. Total Reclaim staff will remove refrigerant, separate the compressor to drain oils, pull off any plastic parts and recycle the metal.
Yes, Alaska Metal Recycling accepts small propane canisters (like the ones used for camp stoves and lanterns. This flyer explains how the canisters need to be prepared before they can be recycled.
Corrugated cardboard has the waffled inner layer sandwiched between two flat pieces of usually brown material. Packing boxes are made of corrugated cardboard. Paperboard, also called grayboard, is the flat material, typically gray or brown in color. Paperboard is what cereal and cracker boxes, six-pack cartons, and paper towel rolls are made of. In many cases, paperboard has a color, glossy side with the product information on it and a dull gray or brown side. Sometimes, as with paper towel rolls or the backs of legal pads of paper, both sides are unfinished. Paperboard is NOT recycled with cardboard but should be included with MIXED PAPER.
You may also encounter paperboard that is white. This is also considered MIXED PAPER unless it is a frozen food box. Freezer boxes have a moisture-resistant coating on them that make them unrecyclable.
Several types of bottles and jugs are recyclable, as well as plastic bags and film (like shrink wrap). To identify which types of bottles and jugs are recyclable, first look for the little recycling triangle on the bottom of the bottle or jug. It will have a number from 1 to 7 inside, plus a letter code (e.g., PETE, HDPE, PS) just below the symbol. Only #1 (PET or PETE) and #2 (HDPE) bottles and jugs are recyclable. This means that if it is, for example, an olive oil bottle, but the little number is a #7, it is NOT recyclable. Similarly, if the item has a #2 on the bottom but it is a yogurt cup, it is NOT recyclable. The item must have a #1 or a #2 AND it must have a neck that is smaller than the base to form the shape of a bottle or jug.
The little recycle triangle on the bottom of most plastic containers and many other plastic is called an SPI code. This code was developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) to help consumers and businesses to easily identify the resin type. This helps for recycling purposes but the code identifier is not meant to indicate that the material is "recyclable." The industry chose to put symbols on the six most common resins plus an "other" category to capture the numerous other resins and the blends that are used.
The symbol on the bottom of a container only tells you about the type of resin used to make the product. Even though the plastic resin in a milk jug and a butter tub may be the same, the molding process to make them is quite different. A milk jug is blow molded, like blowing a bubble, and a butter tub is injection molded, like stamping two forms together with the plastic between them. To use each molding technique, different chemicals must be added to the plastic resin to make it melt and flow correctly. These added chemicals make the resins incompatible in most recycling processes because they no longer melt at the same rate. Melting is an important phase of the plastics recycling process. The biggest recycling end markets are for the blow-molded containers since we generated so many more of them than any other type.
Until recently, plastic caps could not be recycled in Anchorage. Bottle caps are made of a different plastic resin than the containers. They are typically made of #4 PP (polypropylene) because this material is more rigid than the other resins and works well for the strength needed for a beverage cap. Caps are now accepted at the recycling center so you can leave them on your bottles but be sure you empty the bottle or jug first.
If you have lived in or visited other communities in the Lower 48, you may have noticed that some of them do not ask for so much sorting of plastics. These communities are often not recycling more types of plastics; they just have the luxury of sorting facilities. There are some areas of the country that have specific markets for other types of plastics, and these are increasing, but transport . One example is the carpet industry in the southeast U.S. , which can use some of the HDPE non-bottle plastics for carpet backing. But for the most part, any plastics that the Anchorage Recycling Center asks you to sort out are being sorted out and discarded at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF - pronounced "murf") in these other communities. Our Recycling Center is not a sorting facility; it only bales and ships materials. Therefore, we all need to be diligent and sort our own materials properly. This actually provides Anchorage residents with the benefit of learning what really is and isn't recycled so we can make more educated purchasing decisions to avoid nonrecyclable products and packaging.
Several materials are recycled right here in Anchorage. The other materials are baled and shipped to markets in the Lower 48 and beyond. Processing many of these materials in Alaska into the traditional products would be difficult because of our sparse population. We do not generate enough material to support such industries as aluminum smelters, pulp and paper mills, or plastics manufacturers. Therefore, Alaskans either need to be very creative in developing smaller industries that can use these products, as we have with newspaper, or we must ship them to the places that can process them.
Newspaper is picked up by Thermo-Kool of Alaska, a company that makes a variety of recycled products with it, including insulation, animal bedding, hydroseeding medium, and asphalt filler. See the article in E-News, March 2004 for the Thermo-Kool story.
Plastic bottles, jugs, and film are baled by type and shipped to Seattle to be sold to recycling brokers. Plastics recycling is usually not a closed-loop process. In other words, plastic bottles are not made into new plastic bottles but are used in a variety of new products, including fleece clothing, t-shirts, sleeping bag and jacked fill, plastic car and truck bumpers and other auto parts, office supplies, recycling bins, trash bags, grocery bags, and flower pots. Plastic resins collected together, such as mixed films, are often manufactured into plastic lumber or composite wood/plastic lumber, which is used to make decking, fencing, docks, foot bridges, picnic tables, and benches.
Metals, including aluminum and steel cans, as well as scrap industrial metals, are all shipped out of state. There are several industrial metal recyclers in Alaska, but no local metal smelters or remanufacturing businesses. The recyclers sort and process the metals for shipment to Lower 48 markets.
Mixed paper is baled at the Anchorage Recycling Center and shipped to the Lower 48. Since the Recycling Center is owned by a company whose roots are in the pulp and paper business, much of the paper is shipped to the company's own mills and plants. Mixed paper is a lower grade of paper than office paper waste, and is often used to make facial and toilet tissue, construction paper, paperboard (e.g., cereal boxes), egg cartons, paper towels, and other similar grades.
Cardboard is baled and shipped to pulp and paper facilities in the Lower 48.
Newspaper is picked up by Thermo-Kool of Alaska, a company that makes a variety of recycled products with it, including insulation, animal bedding, hydroseeding medium, and asphalt filler.
Glass also remains in Alaska. In the past, glass was ground into a course or fine sand material and used for a variety of jobs, including as an abrasive blast medium for cleaning and depainting ships and septic system backfill. Other products were being developed as well, including glass/concrete pavers and roofing tiles. See past articles in E-News under Recycling - Glass for a history of glass recycling in Anchorage.
Visit the Anchorage Recycles Facebook page to learn more about recycling, share your thoughts, or ask questions.