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City looks at two options for recycling

Posted: January 24, 2012 - 12:03am

Juneau’s current approach to recycling and waste disposal is unsustainable — so the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly took a look at two options for dealing with that thought: ignore the problem and let private industry take over, or contract with a company to build a municipal recycling facility.

Option one basically maintains what the city is doing now — but Public Works Director Kirk Duncan said that it’s unsustainable because of volume and aging infrastructure. Hazardous household waste would continue to be event-driven, recycling volume (how much people drop off) would not increase. The city currently earns $1.1 million on its programming, and spends $998,000 on it. Duncan also pointed out continuing operations as-is does not meet the 2007-08 Assembly directive of a 12-step waste/recycling plan because there is no increase in recyclable volume. Duncan said if the city does not build a municipal recycling facility, or MRF, it is likely Arrow Refuse — the company that currently collects Juneau’s curbside garbage — will and that means a loss in volume and revenue (among other considerations) to the city. It also would likely mean higher costs for users.

The second option has Waste Management — who currently operates Juneau’s landfill — building a facility, collecting hazardous waste three days a week for six months a year, recycling junk vehicles and factoring in a commingled curbside pickup recycling plan — with separated recycling still accepted at the facility. The city would receive 75 percent of recyclable profits (what it sells for minus shipping) and Waste Management would receive 25 percent. City revenue is estimated at $1 million, and expenses at $1.3 million. This assumes no profit or loss from sale of recycled materials. Given the net loss, Duncan proposed increasing the waste charge from $4 per month to $5 per month, and increasing vehicle registration fees from $25 to $28. That would generate $276,000 and make revenues and expenses even out.

Duncan said separated recyclables earn more money when sold, however they don’t gain any volume because of how much they can process. They can recycle more materials if they are commingled, however they earn less.

Duncan said another benefit to the second option is the facility would be approved to actually handle materials like paint. Currently a person could bring in a half-empty can of paint and it would get shipped to Seattle — it could also be completely empty. In a proper facility those containers would be opened and sorted. There’s even a process where household paint could be combined and shipped — as Duncan said, so they’re not just shipping air.

Either way, the city would still only have a contract with Waste Management and that company and Arrow would be working with one another.

The Assembly met as the Committee of the Whole Monday to hear about the options, and later met in executive session to give direction on what it wanted done with the proposals.

Bobby Cox, managing partner for Alaska Pacific Environmental Services, which does business in Juneau as Arrow Refuse, explained some of the recycling options it’s working on. The company re-filed an application with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska on Dec. 22, 2011 and expects an answer sometime in February. It is looking to have curbside pickup for recycling. It would require their trucks to be refitted with mechanical arms — which also require specific bins. Cox said — with an emphasis that the numbers are preliminary — that curbside recycling could cost $1.95 per month for pick up every other week. That’s largely dependent upon code rulings on the bins. Cox, Waste Management, and Duncan expect waste collection to go down and recycling to increase by considerable numbers with this service.

Dean Kattler, vice president of the Pacific Northwest area for Waste Management, said Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, recently switched from a three-bin curbside recycling system to a single-stream system and saw a 250 percent increase in recycling. Duncan expects similar results in Juneau — 200-400 percent over time.

Cox also said that while shipping waste outside of Juneau isn’t completely off the table, Arrow Refuse is most likely not going that route.

“Over short term, 10 years, we would keep that stream in the community,” Cox said. “Economically it makes sense, it would enhance the opportunity for recycling. The economics to shipping out today aren’t conducive to doing that.”

Kattler was asked about new technologies for Juneau — such as a plasma burner that would create energy. Kattler said they lost about a year’s worth of time in Oregon because of permitting issues, so they’re still at the part of turning on and off the new facility there. It is a 25-ton per day facility that cost $18 million. Juneau would need a larger operation. Kattler said the new tech could be tested in Juneau, but estimated that some version would be about 10 years out.

The Committee of the Whole meeting will continue at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall in Conference Room 224, according to a release from the city. An executive session is expected.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

 

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