Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 6:13 PM on Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Recycling can extend borough landfill's life

As we've been reporting in a series of articles over the past few months, the Homer Landfill faces a deadline. In August 2013, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation permit expires that allows the Kenai Peninsula Borough to put household waste in our local dump. The landfill also is running out of room to bury the 8,000 tons of trash a year generated by the lower peninsula. Oh, and just to make things harder, the borough needs $12 million to build a new transfer facility to manage and load household waste for shipment north to the Central Peninsula Landfill in Soldotna.

At a community meeting last Friday on the landfill, Homer residents told Borough Mayor Dave Carey and Solid Waste Director Jack Maryott to put more emphasis on recycling as part of the landfill project. We agree. In the long run, recycling can extend the life of the Central Peninsula Landfill and reduce costs in shipping and handling household waste in Homer.

Think about the last time you went to the Homer Landfill. Did you back your truck up to the baling belt and dump everything or did you stop first at the recycling tent? Does your home or business have a concerted recycling effort? Look at your trash bin. Does it contain recyclable material like newspaper, mixed paper, glass bottles, tin cans, aluminum cans, number 1 and 2 plastics, cardboard and household batteries? All of this household waste adds up. If not diverted from the waste stream, it goes on the belt, into the baler and into the landfill.

You can tell the serious recyclers in town. They're the ones who unload boxes at the recycling tent and one small bag at the baler belt. Those people are good citizens, the people extending our tax dollars with a little bit of sweat. President Barack Obama shook the hands of Homer's EcoLogical team when he rewarded them for advocating recycling efforts. If you're doing your part, you deserve a handshake, too.

Sure, recycling costs money. Maryott said it costs about $600 to truck recyclables to Anchorage. It costs money to handle recycled materials, but it also costs money to mine aluminum, log trees for paper and drill oil for plastics. A ton of tin that's recycled is a ton of tin that doesn't go in the landfill and need to be monitored for 30 years.

Mayor Carey floated the idea of creating a recycling service area on the lower peninsula to pay for efforts here that other parts of the peninsula might not support. That's an idea worth discussion.

Maybe the residents and businesses within the city of Homer — who, after all, are the major producer of trash on the lower peninsula — can chip in for recycling, too.

What if Homer started curbside recycling? What if we shifted our waste management philosophy toward diverting as much from the waste stream as possible before burying it forever?

Critics of big government like to say that private enterprise can solve problems better. Here's a chance to prove that point. With a simple effort, you can help solve our landfill crisis and save taxpayers money by doing one simple thing.