Mayor plans curbside recycling

Botelho wants program in place by next summer

Posted: Monday, June 23, 2008

Curbside recycling could be in Juneau by next summer, according to Mayor Bruce Botelho.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

City staff will present the Juneau Assembly on Monday with a proposed timeline to have recycled materials picked up from every household in Juneau starting July 1, 2009, Botelho said last week.

He said he did not want to disclose exact details of what steps the city would be taking to reach that goal until after the city's plan had been presented to the Assembly.

But the mayor said, "We think we have a schedule that will allow us to have curbside recycling in a year."

If so, it would be a major landmark on a long road for Botelho and his recycling efforts. Almost 20 years ago, Botelho appointed a recycling task force during his first stint as mayor.

"I was hoping as early as then at getting recycling going," Botelho said.

The mayor and other Assembly members have made bringing curbside recycling to Juneau part of their more recent campaign platforms.

A citywide survey last year found that Juneau residents ranked curbside recycling as the third highest priority for "change you might want to see in Juneau."

And a city-commissioned report last year recommended increased recycling to extend the use of the city's landfill, which is estimated to have a shelf life of 30 more years.

But there are several obstacles the city must overcome before Juneau residents are putting their cardboard, newspaper and aluminum cans separate from their trash out on the curb.

According to a consultants' report, which was approved by the Assembly last year, the city needs to take the following steps:

• Hiring a solid waste coordinator.

• Adopting a new law that mandates every residential and commercial trash producer be offered and required to accept a basic level of collection service.

• Acquiring the state license from Arrow Refuse, the collection company that picks up and hauls Juneau's trash.

A main recommendation of the consultants was for the city to become more involved with Arrow Refuse and Waste Management, the company that owns and operates the city's landfill in Lemon Creek. Botelho said that the city has been having "nuanced" ongoing talks with representatives from both companies.

The city's special projects officer, Maria Gladziszewski, said next summer's target date is the "most optimistic" start time, and the consultants told her it would likely be two years before curbside recycling is up and running.

Gladziszewski said that the summer is the best season to start the new program and the city would likely wait until the summer of 2010 to try and get a curbside recycling program off the ground if the 2009 target fell through.

Currently, residents and businesses drop off their recyclable material at the recycling center at the landfill. Though the number has risen in recent years, Juneau only recycles about 5 percent of 31,000 tons of solid waste it produces a year.

The consultant's proposal includes building a "multi-purpose recovery facility" to handle the increased load of recycled materials that could be operated by Waste Management.

Upgrades to Waste Management's recycling facilities would have to be "substantial" and could take a long time to be completed to handle an increased load due to curbside recycling, said Eric Vance, the landfill's manager.

"At this point, I can't even give you a guess," Vance said.

Botelho declined to discuss whether the city would pursue building a new recycling facility by next year, but said the city was using the consultant's report as a "general guideline."

The general manager of the parent company of Arrow Refuse, Glen Thompson, said that a yearlong timeline is "certainly doable." Arrow Refuse would need to buy about $2.5 million in new equipment for a citywide curbside recycling program, including four new automated trucks at more than $200,000 each and 15,000 new bins at about $100 each.

Details of what a curbside recycling program will cost residents aren't currently set in stone, Gladziszewski said, but will likely mean an increase over what people are paying now.

She said customers will be paying for an increase in service - weekly trash pick up and biweekly recycling pick up.

The consultants' report estimates that the monthly cost for the recycling program would vary between $23 to $37, depending on how much waste is picked up.

Arrow Refuse currently charges residential customers about $16 for one 32 gallon container per month and about $23 a month for three containers of the same size.

Assembly member Merrill Sanford said the main issue he foresees the Assembly debating will be the cost of the program. He said "everybody's feeling the pinch," and residents would likely balk at having to pay for a curbside recycling program that raises their monthly pick-up fees significantly.

But he added that he thought the Assembly would have no trouble working "something out" by next year - a sentiment he shares with the mayor.

"The will to move in this direction is very evident to me," Botelho said.

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or e-mail

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