Roving Reporter Reports for Duty
by Alys Culhane
I at one time was a journalist, both for several east-coast newspapers and for several Alaska-based newspapers. I enjoyed the work but preferred writing personal essays and memoir writing. In our lives we come full circle, many times. And there are many circles. So here I am again, doing reportage.
Reporters have beats, specific topics in specific areas. I had hospital, police and fire beats. If I had my druthers, I would have had racetrack and bookstore beats. Now I have a single beat, and it is the single best beat of all. I am covering local recycling events.
This isn’t what I thought this morning, at 7:30 a.m. when I got up at an undogly hour in order to be at Pioneer Peak Elementary School at 9:30 a.m. I says to Pete, “Who roped me into getting up at this hour? – I have to go to sort recyclables. I just want to stay home and work on the recycling book.” Grr, grr, grr.
My attitude changed shortly after I arrived on site. There, James Santiago, the VCRS Operations Manager, and Mollie Boyer, the VCRS Director, were emptying a yellow and green garbage can on wheels full of mixed paper onto a bright blue tarp. They were separating and weighing the contents, and putting said contents back in the cans. I got down on my hands and knees and gave an assist. Then I took a few photos.
The resultant data will be shared with the Matanuska-Susitna School district. The goal is convince them that mixing plastic and aluminum beverage containers in with mixed paper is unwise, for the quality of the final product is not as good. (An aside, China is now rejecting recyclables originating from the US because they have recently been on the receiving end of contaminated co-mingled materials. In other words, what to a large part is trash.)
In order to make this study more valid, three schools are involved – the previously mentioned Pioneer Peak Elementary School, Colony Middle School, and Colony High School. It will be determined which school is generating the most mixed paper. A second weigh-off is scheduled for January 18.
This study was conducted in a very efficient and timely fashion. By the time Mollie and James and I arrived at the middle school and high school, the materials had been weighed and the numbers tallied. I was also impressed with the high degree of focus of the sorters and tabulators.
The final numbers will be tallied at the MSB Central Landfill, where the staff works in concert with VCRS Director Mollie Boyer. I will be interested in finding out what types and amounts of recyclables are generated. Maybe I’ll have this data on-hand tomorrow.