Baler will tie up aluminum cans in a neater package

The process for recycling aluminum cans is about to get easier in the coming months.

The Wrangell Cooperative Association’s Tl’átk - Earth Branch was awarded a $40,000 grant through the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in July to purchase a compactor and baler for its aluminum recycling program. The consortium is working with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to provide solid waste disposal funding to tribes.

For the past three years, Tl’átk – Earth Branch has collected aluminum cans outside Wrangell IGA and City Market. With the help of the Girl Scouts Troop, Tl’átk – Earth Branch technician Kim Wickman crushes these cans by hand and packs them into large sacks so that they can be barged to Tacoma Metals in Washington state for recycling.

This process, however, is time-consuming and a single sack can’t hold much weight. Once the baler arrives — likely by December — it will compress the cans into rectangles for easier and more efficient transportation off the island. The electric-powered baler is about eight feet tall and will sit in a permanent, prefabricated building, at a site to be determined later. The collection points will remain outside the two stores.

“It will make it a much cleaner process,” explained Wickman. “We will have nice, cute little cubes that can get stacked (and) we will be able to ship out much more weight at one time. … You put your cans inside of it, you push the button, and it squishes it down. You use baling twine to wrap it up.”

The Girl Scouts also won’t be in danger of slicing their feet on errant pieces of glass while they’re stomping down the piles of cans.

The recycling program has been going on “forever,” said Wickman, and a wide array of community organizations have run it over the years, usually for fundraising purposes. The Wrangell Cooperative Association took the program over to “help streamline” the process, she added, and the baler is another step in that direction. Currently, the money that the program receives for selling the community’s aluminum goes to the Girl Scouts Troop.

To further its environmental efforts, Tl’átk – Earth Branch is also hoping to get supplies for glass recycling to the island by next year.


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