This October, Haines voters may decide whether they want to implement a municipal solid waste program funded by an increase in the borough’s sales tax. The commerce committee has recommended that the assembly allow voters to weigh in on an initiative that would send waste out of the community by barge.
The initiative to develop a municipal waste program is based on recommendations from the Solid Waste Working Group, which spent 18 months figuring out how the borough could improve waste management.
Haines Friends of Recycling chair Melissa Aronson served on the committee. She says that the current landfill system run by the private company Community Waste Solutions is not sustainable.
“Landfills are problematic in Southeast Alaska because if they’re not lined then they leach toxins into the water supply and inevitably into the ocean eventually,” Aronson says. “If they’re lined effectively then they just become a giant swimming pool of garbage and that’s not good.”
The solid waste working group suggested developing a central transfer station where the community’s waste, both recyclable and non-recyclable, could be shipped out of Haines.
The initiative was first proposed last year but failed to make it on the ballot after the assembly voted it down.
Assemblyman Sean Maidy serves on the borough’s commerce committee. He says that the committee has recommended reintroducing the initiative on this year’s ballot.
“Because the first conversation I don’t think was enough. It died in an assembly level on conjecture and opinion. There was no real solid reason while it should have been shot down. The main reason why it was shot down was different assembly members feelings on how the public would react,” Maidy says.
At the time, some assembly members argued that an increase in taxes would be unpopular and there was no rush to move forward with the proposal without considering other options first.
Members of the solid waste working group had concerns as well. Aronson says under their original proposal the borough would issue separate requests for proposals (RFP’s) for recycling, composting and solid waste management. Essentially separating the three types of disposal. That changed once the proposal made it to the assembly.
“They combined all of those RFP’s into one and that was really problematic,” Aronson says.
Aronson worried that having one RFP would result in a waste transfer facility operated by one group, removing Haines Friends of Recycling from the equation altogether.
“We have a really effective program with Haines Friends of Recycling and I don’t want to see anything happen that gets in the way of the success that we have there.”
Representatives from Community Waste Solutions were unavailable for comment by broadcast time. However, last year landfill manager Sally Garton said that a partnership with the borough and Haines Friends of Recycling would be the ideal way to operate a transfer facility.
The assembly must pass an ordinance by July 18th to get the municipal waste management initiative on the October ballot.