For the last year, a group of Haines residents has been trying to figure out how to improve local garbage disposal. At a meeting Monday, the Solid Waste Working Group presented its ideas to the assembly.
“The goal was to create a tax-based system that’s managed by the borough,” said Melissa Aronson. Aronson is the vice chair of the working group and represents Haines Friends of Recycling. “That requires all MSW and recyclables to be shipped to an appropriate landfill or processing or recycling facility, that encourages recycling and overall waste reduction.”
The proposal shifts most of the financial burden of waste disposal to a sales tax. The group suggested a tax hike of up to 1 percent.
“Up to 1 percent. It wasn’t a 1 percent, no other choice,” said Smith. “So I think that needs to be pointed out. I think another thing that needs to be pointed out is that during the summer we have how many thousand cruise ship passengers that come and create garbage. We have how many other visitors that come, independents, the RV Parks. All of these people would be paying this sales tax also.”
The plan also calls for a small tipping fee, estimated at between $0.02 and $0.08 per pound. That would cover any remaining costs.
Right now residents pay $0.25 per pound to toss separated waste at the local landfill.
Assemblyman Tom Morphet pushed back on a sales tax increase.
“Our retail sector is already struggling,” said Morphet. “I don’t see this as making things cheaper, I just see it as the money coming from a different pot.”
Morphet also brought up an argument the waste group has struggled with throughout the past year.
“We have a motivated group who wants to push the community in the direction of more universal recycling,” said Morphet. “It seems like this model kind of abandons that to a certain extent. And it also disenfranchises people who have kept their garbage bills down, by doing everything right.”
He said tossing trash could become more expensive for residents who don’t generate a lot of waste.
But assembly member Heather Lende said this is an issue everyone has to help solve.
“Communities are responsible for our garbage,” said Lende. “And if we say that only the people who are really good at disposing it should be, you know, that we don’t want to punish them because we’re – then we’re living in a place where there’s garbage all around except for our little spot that we’ve kept clean.”
The conversation focused mainly on how to pay for the proposed system. The plan calls for a transfer station. It also recommends shipping trash out of Haines.
Right now garbage is tossed into the landfill at Community Waste Solutions. That’s the privately-owned company that is currently the only option for trash disposal in Haines.
Sally Garton represents CWS on the waste committee. She said the company does not support the proposed plan.
“When I volunteered to join the solid waste working group last year, it was with the intention that the group would work together to combine all efforts of our community and come up with a viable solution that included all interested parties and that was a benefit to the community,” said Garton. “This proposal doesn’t satisfy that vision.”
From here, Mayor Jan Hill is planning to meet with Borough Manager Debra Schnabel, members of the working group and the assembly’s liaison to the group. They’ll decide what the next steps should be.
Check out the Solid Waste Working Group’s proposal here.
Editor’s note: This report was updated to reflect the fact that Melissa Aronson is the vice chair of the Solid Waste Working Group.