Arrow’s recycling service forces changes to city program

Juneau landfill recycling center

Juneau Landfill operator Waste Management will cut hours at its recycling center as a result of Arrow Refuse's new curbside pickup program. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

A new commercial curbside recycling program in Juneau is already changing the way residents dispose of re-usable materials.

As KTOO previously reported, Arrow Refuse says about 2,200 customers have signed up for the biweekly service, which started last Tuesday.

Beginning tomorrow (Tuesday), landfill operator Waste Management will cut the hours at its recycling center, which is funded in part by Juneau residents through their CBJ monthly utility fees. The city and Waste Management also have put off negotiations for a new recycling facility meant to accommodate both commercial and residential deliveries. KTOO’s Casey Kelly has more.

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The original plan was to keep the recycling center open Tuesday through Saturday. But late last week the City and Borough of Juneau and Waste Management agreed to close it Tuesdays and Wednesdays to allow Arrow Refuse to deliver curbside recyclables.

CBJ Public Works Director Kirk Duncan says it would have been too big a hassle to do both commercial and private deliveries at the same time.

“As people who’ve been out at the recycle center know there’s a bin for aluminum and two bins for plastic,” Duncan explains. “And those bins actually have to be moved, the truck backs into the facility, dumps its load on the tipping floor, pulls out, and then those three bins are put back in place. It’s just a safety issue. It’s a convenience issue. So, we’re going to try this.”

The city had been negotiating with Waste Management for a new recycling center that would combine disposal of household materials with hazardous waste and junk vehicles. The city was prepared to pay some of the upfront costs, as well as about $1-million a year to Waste Management. In exchange, the city would get a share of the company’s profits from selling the materials on the recyclables market. But Duncan says the negotiations started before Arrow launched its curbside program.

“I think this is one of those times when we have to let the dust clear, and see what happens,” says Duncan. “Because, it’s conceivable that everybody’s going to jump on the Arrow curbside program, and then we don’t need the recycling facility.”

The group Friends of Recycling has requested a meeting with Duncan and other city officials to talk about the change in hours.

“I hope that something will get worked out to be more accessible to the public,” says Friends of Recycling’s Linda Deakins. She says they’re concerned the recycling center will go away and everyone will be forced to sign up for Arrow’s curbside service.

“A lot of people mentioned to us that they are not interested in curbside,” says Deakins. “They live close by and they do want to continue with drop off service. And of course with the dropped off service, we still have separated recycling, which makes it more economically feasible.”

That’s because some separated materials are worth more than twice as much on the recyclables market as the comingled materials being collected in Arrow’s curbside program. The difference more than covers the cost of shipping the materials out of Juneau.

Landfill manager Eric Vance says it’s a legitimate concern, and part of the reason Waste Management plans to keep the recycling center open. He also would like to see talks with the city resume for a new facility that could handle commercial and private deliveries at the same time.

“I think it’s still the right thing to do, and I think giving people the option of source-separating or comingled is a unique, nice option for the citizens of Juneau,” says Vance.

He says it remains to be seen whether Arrow’s curbside program results in a drop in usage at the recycling center. The facility currently sees between 1,300 and 1,600 recyclers per week, and is still the only place in Juneau that recycles glass.

“Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays have typically been the busiest public days,” Vance says. “There’s a handful of folks that do come in Tuesdays and Wednesdays. But I think that we’re going to see folks adjust their schedule and hopefully it’s not too inconvenient.”

For now, Waste Management is operating the recycling center on a month-to-month contract with the city. CBJ pays $13,500 a month minus half the profits earned from selling the materials. The two-sides are hoping to hammer out a year-long agreement to continue the current operation, after which they’ll revisit the idea of a new consolidated facility.

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