The Fairbanks Borough continues to move forward with plans to consolidate recycling in the community. The municipality is in the process of acquiring a warehouse to serve as a recycling center. It is also searching for an organization to operate the facility. One of the local recycling groups interested in running it is coping with problems with a key vendor.
For a decade Green Star of Interior Alaska has recycled electronic equipment in Fairbanks. But recently, at a Borough Recycling Commission meeting, Becca Brado of Green Star reported that Total Reclaim, the vendor that receives tons of Fairbanks computers, printers and other electronics, failed best practices.
“And they confessed to sending CRT televisions to Hong Kong,” Brado said. “And there the workers were breaking them open and burning the wires to get to the copper, breaking the bulbs which release mercury and they weren’t wearing protective equipment.”
Brado says Green Star was disturbed by the confession. It began to look around for another vendor, but there are no real options in state.
“The majority of them are based in Washington and California and Oregon,” Brado said. “And so Green Star would have to coordinate logistics to get electronics to the lower 48 whereas in the past we only had to get them to Anchorage.”
Brado said sending the tons of electronics to the Lower 48 would seriously drive up the cost of recycling. For now, Green Star’s operation continues. The company is cautiously optimistic Total Reclaim has acknowledged its lapse and promises to correct it. But Brado said the discovery underscores the fragile social and economic web that supports Fairbanks recycling.