City prepares to enter solid waste biz

Consultants estimate it would cost $23 for 23 gallons of waste under new system

Posted: Friday, November 30, 2007

The Juneau Assembly is ready to move the city into the solid waste business and seek a three-way contractual partnership with Waste Management and Arrow Refuse to increase recycling and lengthen the life of the landfill.

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WIH Resource Group consultant Richard Hertzberg told the Assembly members on Thursday that their best shot at answering the public's call for a curbside recycling program in Juneau is to stay the course with the local landfill, take over the local garbage-hauling permit, enter into decadelong contracts with Waste Management and Arrow Refuse and mandate that everyone participate.

"It's a significant step," Hertzberg said.

Assembly member Bob Doll moved to "conceptually approve" 12 recommendations that explore a citywide recycling program. The primary idea is to build a recycling program under the city's direction.

What it takes

• Transfer solid waste hauling permit from Arrow Refuse to city.

• Enter 10-year contracts with Arrow Refuse and Waste Management.

• Require all homes and businesses to participate.

• Hire solid waste coordinator.

• Continue with landfill.

• Build a 10-acre recycling center.

The consultants recommended that the city adopt a policy on universal trash and recycling collection, hire a solid waste coordinator and take over Arrow Refuse's state waste hauling permit by July 2008. Other steps follow.

Assembly members Sara Chambers and Randy Wanamaker voted against the approval. Both said they mostly agree with the plan, but share a concern over creating a new government office without further discussion.

"This motion avoids time lines," Doll said.

Chambers said she had additional concern over mandating additional costs to households.

Developing the program will cost money and Hertzberg recommends that the private sector invest in the trucks, curbside containers, and a 10-acre recycling center. Waste Management and Arrow Refuse could be spurred into the plan if the contracts are in place, he said.

The city should mandate every home and business in Juneau to pay for garbage and recycling service, Hertzberg said. His report shows 85 percent of the homes and businesses in Juneau already pay for Arrow to handle their waste.

Consultants estimate that residential rates in the new city run system would fall between $23 for 23 gallons of waste and $35 for 95 gallons of waste per month.

"Rates would carry most if not all the costs of the program," Hertzberg. "Nobody is special; nobody is excluded; everyone pays that fee."

Three-way contracts and the transfer of the waste hauling permit comprise the main idea of WIH Resource Group's report.

Obtaining the permit is not difficult if Arrow agrees, Mayor Bruce Botelho said.

Arrow Refuse General Manager Glen Thompson said his company is interested in exchanging its state permit for the rights to a 10-year franchise. Arrow has been looking at the recycling market for years, but it's not possible without the city partnership, he said.

Waste Management is interested in working with the city to determine what is needed and what the company might provide in terms of investment, said Cal Palmer, vice president of Waste Management Post Collections Facilities.

"We haven't discussed any specific length of time," he said. "The long-term stability of the solid waste system is what matters."

Before voting, Assembly member Jonathan Anderson asked if recycling could ever pay for itself in Juneau.

Juneau recycles about 5 percent of 30 tons of waste each year. Even if a 20 percent rate were achieved, the program would never pay for itself, but the cost per ton will go down, consultant Chris Bell said.

"The more you recycle, the more you save," he said.

Marcy Larsen, spokeswoman for the Solid Waste Work Group, said she overcame an initial skepticism if the new solid waste plan was affordable and would work for the city.

"We need to form a partnership if the city wants to change," she said.

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