Community Waste Solutions is the only licensed trash disposal business in Haines. (Emily Files)

Community Waste Solutions is the only trash disposal business in Haines. (Emily Files)

A solid waste working group in Haines has been busy trying to figure out if there’s a better way for the borough to deal with trash. They’ve been looking at how trash gets tossed around the region. At their latest meeting, the group took a closer look at the disposal system in Gustavus.

Earlier this month, the working group heard from a representative in Petersburg about their waste disposal system. Karl Hagerman also talked about the Southeast Alaska Regional Solid Waste Authority, a partnership between several communities in the region.

Paul Berry manages the city-owned Gustavus Disposal and Recycling Center. He video-conferenced in to the solid waste group’s meeting this week.

“We’re a service more than a business,” said Berry. “We’re a service that is structured like a business, but we’re primarily a service.”

Gustavus’s waste disposal system is very similar to Haines. The big difference is that in Gustavus it’s a municipal service. In Haines it’s a privately-owned business.

The Gustavus center is a self-haul baling facility with a landfill. Residents pay based on weight for waste and recycling. It costs $0.23 per pound for trash, $0.18 for recycling and $0.39 for unsorted waste. There are a few things that are free to dispose of, including aluminum cans and litter.

Let’s compare that to rates at the privately-owned Community Waste Solutions in Haines. The sole waste disposal option for local residents is also a self-haul, pay-as-you-throw facility. The rates for trash and recycling are a little higher at $0.25 per pound for trash and $0.23 for recycling. But mixed waste $0.12 less than the Gustavus rate. The company takes separated glass for free, and will buy clean aluminum cans for $0.15 per pound.

For recycling, community members can also go to the non-profit, donation-based Haines Friends of Recycling.

The Gustavus facility also includes a thrift store that generates some revenue and keeps more waste out of the landfill. And, residents can compost food waste on-site. CWS in Haines takes compostables as well.

Berry said community involvement is an important part of the system in Gustavus.

“One of the key things about our facility is, as I like to say, having the customer do as much of the work as possible, as opposed to the operator,” said Berry. “And that can make a steep learning curve with your new customers. But with other customer helping out, kind of watching the flow, that can kind of keep things moving.”

He said they bale waste to maximize space in the landfill. With space in mind, he said the facility will likely need to start moving in a new direction.

“I can see the writing on the wall as far as our capacity,” said Berry. “So I know we need to become more of a transfer station and less of a landfill.”

Sally Garton, who represents Community Waste Solutions on the Haines working group, said at a previous meeting that the Haines landfill has been in operation since the 1970s and less than half has been used.

The committee plans to continue talking to other communities about how they deal with solid waste. They’ll hear from Juneau at the next meeting.

And the  group is looking for two new members. Jeremy Stephens and Diana Lapham resigned this month. Burl Sheldon applied for one of the seats, but with only one voting member present at this week’s meeting, his spot couldn’t be confirmed.