Council hears of need for a Recycling Center
By Diana Haecker
Kawerak Environmental Program Director Anahma Shannon made the case for a much-needed recycling center facility in Nome, presenting information from a feasibility study and several solutions to the Nome Common Council last week.
Kawerak coordinates a recycling program with its member tribes to reduce hazardous waste going into the communities’ landfills, and in partnership with Bering Air flies e-waste and other hazardous materials to Nome. At the lot across from Kawerak’s building, the waste is sorted and stored in containers that are transported by plane or barge to recycling facilities in Seattle. The sorting, bundling and properly packaging of these materials takes place outside, regardless of weather. This, Shannon said, is limiting the potential expansion to process higher materials volumes.
The solution, she said. is a proper and enclosed building, outfitted with a baler to compress recyclables into cubes that can be easier stored and transported, and would fetch a better price when sold to recycling companies in the Lower 48.
“An enclosed facility is needed to increase worker safety and to allow us to enhance efficiency and production,” Shannon said.
Currently accepted recyclables handled by Kawerak are e-Waste products, lead-acid batteries, dry cell batteries, fluorescent lamps and toner cartridges. The materials are stored in connex vans and a dry shed. The City of Nome collects aluminum cans, glass bottles and jars for recycling. Shannon said a recycling program with a proper facility could also include consumer plastics, cardboard, paper products, tin cans and compost.
The feasibility study, done by Zender Environmental Health and Research Group for Kawerak, looked at the current situation in Nome, comparable recycling programs in Alaska, conducted surveys in Nome and the villages, compared six different balers and proposed several different facility options of varying sizes.
Zender offered six alternatives with different building designs, ranging from 2,500 sqft to 4060 sqft in size to house the baler, a garage and office space.
Then the council began asking questions: Who’s going to pay for the facility? Where is the facility going to be built? Who will run the program? How and who will be handling the sorting and packaging? Shannon said Kawerak wants to partner with the City to find out what each entity could contribute. Upfront capital costs, she said, could be covered with grants. Operations and maintenance costs could be covered by selling the baled recyclables and by user fees.
City Manager Glenn Steckman said that Alaska Waste is interested in assisting as their mother company in the Lower 48 is invested in recycling. Shannon said Alaska Waste could be a partner in collecting the recyclables and the program would be run by Kawerak, offering administrative help, and by the city’s Public Works Department, doing the actual sorting and baling.
Mayor John Handeland said that the City is not looking to add more employees or responsibilities but would welcome being a partner.
Councilmembers were in support of a recycling program as it would keep not only extend the life of the landfill, and keep hazardous materials as well as bulky items like cardboard or plastics out of the dump. The baled materials could then be backhauled and sold, creating a revenue stream in addition to charging user fees to pay for operating costs.
Kawerak’s board of directors has selected a smaller building size so that no user fees would need to be charged, but still recommended charging businesses recycling fees.
Shannon also stressed that there must be buy-in from the community, to accept the added inconvenience to separate their trash or to accept user fees.
At the end of the work session, it was determined that the city manager and Shannon were to continue to work on the concept.