Rough ideas for an alternative way for Haines to dispose of solid waste are taking shape. Two plans centered on transfer stations were presented at a solid waste working group meeting last week.
Haines is starting to explore, in an informal way, whether a different garbage disposal setup is feasible.
Right now, residents are reliant on one privately-owned landfill, Community Waste Solutions. There is also a nonprofit recycling center. Most residents self-haul their trash to CWS. Some of the pitfalls in this system include problems with illegal dumping and the insecurity of having no back-up plan if CWS were to shut down.
Would a different system work better? That’s what the solid waste working group is exploring.
Public Facilities Director Brad Ryan and waste group member Burl Sheldon each presented a rough plan based on transfer stations. These are sites where people would bring waste before it gets shipped out or taken to the landfill.
“I put everything in this, the scope is the kitchen sink,” Ryan said. “In my mind, there’s a recycling area, there’s an area for compost, there’s an area to grind glass, there’s a building where municipal solid waste goes. You have e-recycling, hazardous waste, oil, garden mulch and over here I have batteries.”
Ryan suggested a main transfer station in town, preferably at the wastewater treatment plant or the recycling center on Small Tracts Road. Another transfer site would be set up out the Haines Highway, perhaps at Mosquito Lake School.
Ryan did some rough math, and estimates this model would cost each household about $16/month. That is, if the borough were to treat trash disposal like a utility. Right now, Haines residents pay by pound to get rid of waste.
“To me, this is where the conversation starts,” Ryan said. “How do we make it work for the community? I tried to put some numbers to it, some ideas to it. Now it’s up for discussion with the group.”
Sheldon’s plan was similar to Ryan’s. But he wanted to make the cost more invisible to residents. Instead of charging for garbage disposal as a utility, he said it should be paid through taxes. That way, trash removal appears ‘free.’
“Very important is that everybody pays,” Sheldon said. “And I’m proposing payment through taxation, there’s no way to opt out of it.”
Sheldon said there should also be a reasonable fee for trash collection, for people who don’t want to self-haul.
Ryan and Sheldon both said CWS could be involved as a contractor either operating the site or hauling garbage there.
But these ideas were met with skepticism by one member of the working group.
“Why would anybody bother to recycle?” asked Melissa Aronson, with Haines Friends of Recycling.
One benefit of Haines’ current system, where people pay by the pound, is that it encourages good behavior in some. People find ways to recycle and otherwise reduce the amount of garbage they’re throwing away.
“We’ve had a recycling ethic in this town for 20 years and it’s a real shame to throw it away,” Aronson said.
Sheldon and Ryan said their plans don’t have incentives for people to recycle.
Borough Manager Debra Schnabel asked Aronson to present her own ideas about how Haines could move to a more sustainable waste disposal model that still encourages recycling.
The next solid waste working group meeting is Aug. 15 at 4 p.m.