My turn: What do we know about our trash?

Posted: Monday, April 12, 2010

Mary Catharine Martin's "Talking Trash" article which published Sunday, April 4, was a good summary of the discussions taken up by CBJ Assembly members and staff involved with waste management. I've read all the material I could find, and remain deeply interested in this multi-dimensional and complex issue.

There appears to be a serious challenge to provide clear information and education about the current status of Juneau's waste management program so that the community clearly understands where we are now, before long-term and possibly very costly changes are initiated. Joe Buck's memorandum was helpful with some information.

That said, the following questions have occurred to me:

• What are the different wastes that must be managed by someone or some entity (regular garbage, recyclables, junk metal, cars, hazard wastes, building/demolition wastes, others)?

• How are the different disposal methods currently carried out (landfill, shipping, composting, incineration)?

• What is the "Certificate of Public Convenience" from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska? What is its authority and what does it provide for the people of Juneau? What aspects of waste management does that certificate deal with? Who currently owns that certificate?

• Why does the CBJ want the certificate? What are the benefits and liabilities that will accrue to CBJ if they have the certificate?

• Who owns Arrow Refuse and what is the history of that authority? What is the working relationship between Arrow Refuse and Alaska Pacific Environmental Services?

• Who owns Waste Management, Inc. and what is the history of that authority?

• What are the contractual agreements and working relationships between or among Arrow Refuse, Waste Management, Inc., and the CBJ?

• Does the CBJ want to control the landfill?

• Some definitions may also be in order: Waste stream, simple waste stream, bailer, variable rates for residential collection, tipping fee, curbside recycling, mandatory collection, automated collection system and area waste deposits.

• A Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) is discussed. What is this and what will it provide?

• If all current waste management costs were summarized and assessed for each household (as are water and sewer), what would that cost currently be?

• What are the new technologies in waste management that may be useful for Juneau (plasma, waste-to-energy incineration, gasification)?

• What do the people of Juneau want out of waste management? What are the people of Juneau prepared to pay for? What are the economic, public health and social implications of these choices? Would a formal query of the public help with decision making?

It would appear there is much to learn about our waste management. This will require many community forums, educational materials, open discussions, transparent and honest collaboration and community participation.

After all, it is our trash (personal, community, individual and collective).

• Carolyn Brown is a Douglas resident.

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