Eyak Tribe redirects hazardous materials

Program removes waste from village

Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2007

CORDOVA - Neither sleet, nor rain, nor the dreary grayness of a chilly autumn day in Cordova could dampen the spirit driving the Native Village of Eyak's electronics recycling program.

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Conceived as the brainchild of the tribe's environmental coordinator Erika Empey, a collection drive held Oct. 25-26 was able to recover 2,000 pounds of used electronics.

As part of a project to eliminate hazardous materials such as mercury and lead from local landfills, the village teamed up with Total Reclaim's satellite office in Anchorage to have the used electronics collected and shipped to company headquarters in Seattle via barge.

Total Reclaim has been in business since 1991.

"They recycle about 95 percent of the products, melt the plastic down into pellets, and sell the pellets back to the companies that make electronics. They reuse all the circuitry they can and the copper also," Empey said.

While pleased with the outcome of the drive, Empey revealed that she had hoped for a better response. During a trial run, the village alone was able to dispose of 1,300 pounds of used electronics.

"I thought we could get a lot more. Other communities recycled about 10,000 pounds," she said. Not one to be discouraged, she noted that the tribe has had numerous inquiries after the conclusion of the collection.

Empey said that the goal is to set up the electronics recycling program to run for the next two years. She said that another collection drive has been tentatively planned for April to coincide with Earth Day.

Empey also said that for the next drive, the tribe would like to receive items during a 30-day span as opposed to the recent two-day window.

Looking to the future, the soft-spoken but driven Empey hopes to conduct a waste-stream analysis of the burn pile, a wood recycling program and develop more community awareness for solid waste management.

Empey has been the environmental coordinator since September 2006.

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