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Expanding recycling one solution to Juneau's growing waste problem

Posted: October 2, 2013 - 8:02pm  |  Updated: October 3, 2013 - 12:12am

As the debate over what to do with Juneau’s big pile of junk rages on, the Commission on Sustainability is looking for ways to slow its growth by expanding recycling in Alaska’s capital city.

Representatives from Arrow Refuse, which handles recycling for about 3,000 Juneau customers, met with the Commission Wednesday to outline the state of recycling and brainstorm ways to advance the program even further.

“The CBJ has been struggling with what to do with solid waste, so recycling has been on the want for a real long time,” Matt Dull, operations manager for Arrow Refuse, told the commission.

Demand for the program has been high since its inception in June of last year, and the growth is still continuing. Arrow Refuse is expecting another 700 recycling canisters to distribute to new customers sometime over the next two months.

“Word is out pretty strong about recycling,” said Arrow Refuse operations specialist Morgan Dodge.

It costs about $5.44 per month to enroll in the program, which picks up unsorted recyclable goods once every other week, Dull said.

Work is ongoing to alter recycling pickup routes in a manner that would allow customers to put out their trash and recycle containers on the same day, he added.

Currently, users of both programs typically have different pickup days for different types of waste.

When the program began last year, Arrow Refuse was getting about $80 per ton of unsorted recyclable goods. That number has dropped to under $9 now, but the company is still in talks with the city to find ways to get more people involved, Dull said.

“There is a lot of potential to remove more out of the waste stream,” he said.

One of the ideas floated around at Wednesday’s meeting included a contract with the city that would install community dump bins where large numbers of people could bring their recycled goods for efficient pickup.

If that plan were to move forward, the city would need to figure out way to keep citizens from throwing trash or other non-recyclable items into the bins.

“That would help those folks tremendously that want to participate,” Dodge said of installing satellite recycle sites at various locations like out the road and on Douglas.

Dull added that Arrow Refuse is focusing efforts now on developing a pricing structure for commercial accounts that would allow businesses or multi-unit housing complexes to sign up for recycling.

The Commission is planning to bring in experts from a regional waste authority group, Waste Management and the city over its next few meetings to continue sorting out Juneau’s trash issues and to find more ways to increase recycling efforts.

Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at 523-2243 or at matthew.woolbright@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reportermatt.

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