Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

When Rena O. Nicklie launched the Cantwell Recycle Center in January 2015, she had no idea if people would use it. Now, nearly five years later, it’s a hugely successful endeavor that enjoys partnerships with the Cantwell Native Council, the Denali Borough, the Zero Landfill Initiative and the EPA’s Indian General Assistance Program.

“I knew there was a need,” she said. “Some people were traveling all the way to Fairbanks to recycle. I had no expectation how big it would get.”

Now, people in the Denali Borough can recycle closer to home. From October 2018 to September 2019, local residents recycled 1,175 pounds of plastics, 5,724 pounds of mixed paper, 1,960 pounds of aluminum, 3,255 pounds of E-waste and from June 2019 to September 2019, 114 pounds of tin. All those items were kept out of the Denali Borough Landfill.

The center is located in a corner of the Cantwell Transfer Station, Mile 213, Parks Highway, just north of the community of Cantwell. The borough provides the space and EPA/IGAP provides funding.

“Rena (Nicklie) and Carol (Winkler) have done a wonderful job of running the program and offering a wide range of recycling options,” said Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker. “We are pleased their grant is renewed and we look forward to continued work together to improve our diversion rates in the borough.”

Once a month, Nicklie and co-worker Carol Winkler, with the help of volunteers, load up all the recycled items and deliver them to the Palmer Recycle Center. E-waste, which includes residential electronics, goes to Total Reclaim in Anchorage.

Cantwell Recycle Center is part of the Zero Landfill Initiative, a program sponsored by Subaru of America that partners with Denali National Park, the Denali Borough and a cadre of local businesses and agencies, to reduce waste delivered to the borough landfill by 30%. Members hoped to achieve that goal in five years. They reached that goal in two years, Nicklie said. 

Funding for the new fiscal year through EPA/IGAP was just recently approved and Nicklie is already working on what happens next. A concrete floor was installed in the recycle shed this summer. Future plans include the possibility of adding solar panels to the Cantwell Community Center, maybe turning old rubber tires into a bike path from the Parks Highway/Denali Highway intersection to the Pass Creek Bridge and helping Cantwell Village members remove old refrigerators/freezers from their properties.

Nicklie is always thinking ahead.

The biggest recycle contributor in summer 2019 was Husky Homestead. The tourism business saved items all summer and then delivered to the recycle center, filling up bins that had just been emptied.

 Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.