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Recycling Returns To Unalaska

Theo Greenly

The Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska is once again accepting aluminum cans for free recycling, putting an end to a 16-month-long pause on recycling on the island. 

The tribe had previously been recycling aluminum cans and plastic bottles, but put the project on hold in March of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered many of the island's facilities.

Chandra Poe, who works as the Environmental Director for the tribe, says they recently arranged for transportation services company Matson, Inc. to provide containers and shipping to a recycling facility in Tacoma, WA.

"It is exciting to find something that will work for our situation, where we can crush cans but don't have a baler to really compact them, which is what many recycling centers require," Poe said.

In order for aluminum cans to be accepted by the Tacoma processors, the cans need to be fairly clean, according to Elizabeth Mears, an environmental intern for the Qawalangin Tribe.

"We really want people to please rinse and crush cans or they will not be accepted," Mears said.

While the tribe had previously accepted plastic bottles, they are currently only accepting aluminum cans, with hopes of taking other recyclables in the future.

Cleaned and crushed aluminum cans can be dropped off between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the collection bin outside the Qawalangin Tribe's office at 1253 E. Broadway.


Theo Greenly reports from the Aleutians as a Report for America corps member. He got his start in public radio at KCRW in Santa Monica, California, and has produced radio stories and podcasts for stations around the country.
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