Unique Garbage Challenges in Juneau

Juneau, Alaska's tiny capital city, is not accessible from elsewhere by road. Its isolation makes waste disposal problematic and expensive, spurring an aggressive recycling effort.

1 minute read

December 22, 2015, 9:00 AM PST

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Juneau Alaska Houses

Andrei Taranchenko / Flickr

Juneau's isolated location in the coastal mountains of the Alaska Panhandle doesn't lend itself to easy waste management. "Like most of the small communities in the Alaska Panhandle, Juneau is reachable only by boat or by plane [...] That means it's not a city surrounded by limitless acres of unused space, a fact that results in some unusual municipal dilemmas."

Pacific Standard writer Eva Holland spoke to Jim Penor, Juneau's solid waste coordinator. Penor revealed that "Unlike some [...] other major towns, where all waste is shipped to Washington by barge, Juneau keeps its solid waste close to home." That landfill, sadly, won't accept trash forever. At that point, non-recyclable waste will need to leave town by barge.

Meanwhile, Penor is dedicated to building Juneau's recycling program. Holland writes, "The city works with Waste Management to run a depot where residents can deliver their sorted recyclables. From there, the glass, tin, plastic, and paper items are collected into bales and transferred to barges headed south, to the ports in Seattle and Tacoma, and then onto trucks to recycling facilities in Washington state."

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