Hazardous waste disposal event a waste of time?

City looks into complaints about event's long lines

Posted: Friday, June 12, 2009

Depending on how you look at it, the Hazardous Waste Disposal Day in Lemon Creek on May 31 was either a tremendous success or an utter failure, resident Neil Atkinson told city officials this week.


A line of cars snaked around Costco, people sat idling for more than two hours and others piled their junk into friends' cars so they didn't have to spend a beautiful Sunday sitting in line. Others frustrated with the long wait simply drove away, Atkinson said.

After hearing Atkinson's suggestion that the city look into it, Assembly member Merrill Sanford agreed, adding that he waited two hours and 15 minutes to recycle half a dozen florescent light bulbs.

Realizing people are likely to dump hazardous junk into the landfill, in the woods or down the toilet if long lines persist at recycling events, the Assembly asked Public Works Director Joe Buck to report on what could be done.

It was a success in that 25 percent more hazardous junk was collected in May compared to the same month the year before. Buck said residents might have done a lot of cleaning in the good weather this spring.

"I think this last one was an anomaly," he said.

About the same number of cars drove through, but 125,714 pounds of material was collected, compared to 100,838 pounds the year before.

"We can only guess why," Buck said.

The event that allows the safe disposal of hazardous items like acids, aerosols and herbicides is held about seven times a year, costing the city $397,500 annually.

PSC Environmental Services has handled collections for the city under a contract since 2005. Calls to the Anchorage-based company seeking comment were not returned Thursday.

It's possible that word-of-mouth is making the recycling events more popular, which is a good thing, Buck said.

The amount of material collected more than doubled over the years, and about 50 percent more people are participating. In 1999, nearly 2,000 cars drove through the residential and commercial events, with 208,097 pounds of material dumped. By 2007, about 3,000 cars brought 483,741 pounds.

Buck said the city might change the schedule next year to offer a drop-off day every month of the spring and summer. Not having one in April this year and the good weather might have contributed to a greater need for material to be thrown away by the end of May, he said.

The next Hazardous Waste Disposal Day is set for June 28. Buck said he would suggest more signs and staff at the event, since some people in line had been trying to get to big box stores in the neighborhood, not to the recycling event.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at kim.marquis@juneauempire.com or 523-2279.

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