CBJ Assembly OKs recycling talks

CBJ Public Works Director Kirk Duncan explains the concept for a new Municipal Recycling Facility to the Assembly on Monday. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

The City and Borough of Juneau will enter into negotiations with Waste Management for a new recycling facility at the landfill.

The CBJ Assembly this week gave Public Works Director Kirk Duncan the okay to work with the company on the new building. Duncan says the current recycling center is maxed out.

“We have about an 8 percent diversion factor from the landfill,” he says. “We take about 2,400 tons per year in recycling, compared to 31,000 tons going into the landfill.”

Duncan will work with Waste Management to develop a Municipal Recycling Facility – or MRF – that will consolidate three separate city-funded programs. Junk vehicles, hazardous materials, and household products would all be disposed of under the same roof at the landfill.

“We will have a facility, everything will be compacted here, and then it will shipped down to Seattle, where it will be separated at one of three facilities down there and then shipped off to China,” he says.

Right now, Duncan says the city makes a little more than 100-thousand dollars a year off its recycling program. That’s because household materials are separated at the landfill, making them more profitable on the recyclables market.

“Cardboard right now, corrugated cardboard, is about $149 a ton, and we certainly don’t want to mix that in with everything else,” Duncan says. “It’s better economic sense to stay source-separated. But if you want to increase the volume, lengthen the life of the landfill, it makes sense to go co-mingled.”

That’s where Arrow Refuse comes in. The private company holds the Regulatory Commission of Alaska certificate to collect solid waste in Juneau. While recycling is not regulated by the RCA, Arrow’s Managing Partner, Bobby Cox, says the company plans to offer curbside pickup of household recyclables to its customers in the near future. The materials would be dropped off at the recycle center at the landfill.

“We expect that the only cost we’ll have to the consumer will be basically off-setting some of the cost of the container we’ll have to provide,” says Cox. “So we’re looking at a very low rate initially, probably somewhere in the $1.95 range is what we’ve been projecting.”

Arrow and Waste Management recently reached an agreement for a new 10-year tipping fee contract at the landfill that will also cover disposal of recyclables. Cox says the MRF would allow Arrow to collect material from large commercial and government customers.

“The reason we’re not picking up containers of cardboard at the State Office Building or places like that, is because you can’t process that right now with the volumes that we have without changing the facility,” Cox says. “So if you had a different facility, we could go out and effectively start marketing a lot of those source separated materials that we’re not doing right now.”

Duncan says consolidation of recycling services at the MRF shouldn’t increase the city’s costs – about a million dollars a year right now. But income from recyclables could go down. That all depends on the amount of co-mingled material and the price it fetches on the recyclables market.

“A year ago, co-mingled was $110 a ton. Now it’s $49. That’s the volatility in the market,” he says.

In the event of a shortfall, Duncan proposes an increase in the city’s household hazardous waste disposal fee and vehicle registration fee, which pays for junk vehicle disposal. He hopes to have a deal for the MRF negotiated with Waste Management within three months.

Arrow Refuse is waiting for a legal opinion about the type of container it wants to use for its curbside recycling program before releasing details. The city requires garbage containers to be bear proof, but Arrow is hopeful that won’t apply to recycling containers.