After Waste Management shut down its two incinerators last June, recycling has become more important than just a feel-good action.
Over the past year, the company's dump has gained height at an alarming rate. Anyone who drives down Egan Drive is unlikely to miss the dump now, but Eric Vance, Waste Management's district manager, said he doesn't have updated figures on the rate the garbage is accumulating.
"It's very startling when you see the gigantic pile of trash," said Alexander Hoke, who goes to the dump to recycle. "You are wondering, 'Oh, my gosh, will we have a mountain there?'"
Every year, Juneau generates about 30,000 tons of garbage.
Vance said the company estimates the dump has 30 to 35 years to go but city officials say it might reach its limit in 10 years.
"All the goods that used to be burned now go into the ground," said Janet Grange, administrative officer for the city's Public Works Department. "That's why it's building up."
The city is seeking creative proposals for its recycling program. Although recycling can significantly reduce the amount of garbage that goes into the dump, only 5 percent of Juneau residents recycle.
Juneau doesn't have a curbside pick-up program.
Waste Management, which is in charge of the city's recycling program, allows residents to drop their recyclables at its dump at Lemon Creek only on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
"It's not pleasant just to go to one location two days a week," Grange said. "We need to have better accessibility."
As the city's contract with Waste Management expires Dec. 31, the city is seeking proposals to encourage recycling.
The city's current program recycles glass, newspapers, corrugated cardboard, aluminum and plastic bottles and jugs. The new contract will include white paper and magazines.
The contractor will have $165,000 a year to manage the program. The contractor and the city will split the revenues from selling the goods.
So far, Waste Management and St. Vincent de Paul have expressed interest in managing the program.
Vance said Waste Management will make recycling more convenient. Starting Aug. 2, people can drop off their recyclables from Tuesday to Saturday.
St. Vincent de Paul has prepared for the recycling program for five years, said Dan Austin, general manger of St. Vincent de Paul.
Austin said the organization plans to work with Southeast Alaska Guidance Association and Gastineau Humane Society. The organization recently bought 1.5 acres next to its office to build a new thrift shop and a new recycling center.
"We want to create a few full-time jobs and make Juneau a better place to live," Austin said. "To have a decent recycling program is part of that."
To give potential contractors more time to prepare their proposals, the city postponed the deadline from Aug. 8 to September.
Joe Buck, director of Public Works, said his department is considering having a waste management specialist identify the city's and the region's needs for the next 30 or 50 years. The Juneau Assembly will consider the proposal in fall.
"We need to think beyond the landfill, beyond Waste Management," Buck said.