Recycling is an essential public service that shouldn’t be at risk because of short-term market challenges. That message is the most important thing to remember this Earth Day, April 22, and every other day. We reached out to Sean Huntington, Recycling Manager in Fairbanks, AK, to answer some questions about recycling. Let's get to it!
SWANA: How do you recycle in Fairbanks?
SH: The Central Recycling Facility (CRF) is a drop off location, we accept aluminum cans, cardboard, mixed paper, newspaper, office paper, plastic #1 bottles, plastic #2 jugs, and used electronics.
SWANA: How is recycling different in your state than the others?
SH: The only curb side pick-up service in city limits for waste only.
SWANA: What do people do to promote recycling in schools, offices, etc?
SH: A local Non Profit, Green Star of Interior Alaska, (GSIA) in the process of updating a curriculum that will be taught to middle aged students on how and why to recycle in Fairbanks AK. I just attended a meeting with the school board a month ago to promote/support/inform the school board on the boroughs CRF.
SWANA: How important do citizens in Alaska consider recycling?
SH: The borough has conducted several professional surveys, a phone survey in 2012 showed that 60.3% or residents were willing to pay a fee to support recycling. A more recent survey in 2018, when residents were asked which programs to reduce, only 6.9% chose the CRF.
SWANA: What do you think is the best way for companies to reach the public on proper ways to recycle?
SH: Smarter packaging and a National media campaign. Plastic needs to be recognized as being just as easy to recycle like aluminum has been for the last 40 years.
SWANA: What are your suggestions to people who are trying to reduce their waste?
SH: Reducing is the first step. Start buying your products from the grocery store that make the greenest sense. Until manufacturers start packaging their goods better, consumers are limited, but any effort is better than none. Try composting; it’s easy and great for your garden. If you don’t garden, find a friend that does!
SWANA: How can people start recycling better?
SH: Recognize what happens when you throw something away. Our earth has limited resources. Reduce what you buy, reuse what you can, and then recycle it if your community accepts the materials. And only recycle empty rinsed out containers. REDUCE contamination.
SWANA: Besides reducing waste and recycling properly, what else can people do to help the environment?
SH: Stop being so wasteful. Prepare what can be eaten; make leftovers an awesome meal night.
SWANA: What is the easiest or your favorite habit/contribution someone can adopt to start the path to a more sustainable life?
SH: I’ve recently started composting. I don’t currently have a garden, but found someone in the community that composts, and as long as I follow the rules, she loves my compost!
SWANA: What are the three most important tips you would give to school districts trying to jump start or implement a recycling system?
SH: Get the children involved making posters, challenging other classes who collect more. Think about combining efforts, even the school buses make for a good means to haul after they drop off students
SWANA: If you had one thing to say to someone who is trying to make a difference in the world with recycling, what would you tell them?
SH: I would tell people to stop being lazy! Taking care of our earth isn’t difficult, and it can be healthy! Stop taking the elevator, use the stairs. Stop buying single use packaging, do you really need 8 little bottles of juice, or can you purchase a large jug and use a reusable mug? Why park in the closest parking spot, walk a little further, and maybe have less dents on your car! If you recycle and compost, you’ll be amazed how little garbage you put into the landfill. 10,000 steps a day! Put less than the national average of 4.5 lbs. of waste into the garbage.
The Fairbanks CRF staff and members of the Sustainability Commission celebrating their one-year anniversary.
Sean Huntington was in the Air Force for 25 years, retired in 2017 and just hit his two-year mark as the Recycling Manager with the Fairbanks North Star Borough. He moved personnel and equipment in the AF and now recyclable materials to mills to become new stuff! He loves his job and wishes more people were green and Earth-conscious. Even though they’re thousands a mile away from a MRF or mill, it’s still the right thing to do. REDUCE, REUSE, REPAIR, & RECYCLE!
Mr. Huntington is celebrating Earth Day by educating the youth and adults on the importance of Earth Day in Ft. Wainwright.
Download SWANA's Recycling Media Kit to learn more!