While some people think of reducing waste and recycling as a “Greeny” endeavor, I appreciate that the enormous and sour mountain in the middle of our city is getting dirty looks from virtually everyone these days.
No matter what a person’s political belief, race, or education is, we can all agree that the landfill stinks! As the owner of Juneau Composts, I have been studying composting and waste management for over a decade. I have done my best to nudge our community in the right direction, but small nudges from one women will take a long time to bring real change.
I believe that we as a community need to look at our waste through a different lens. What if instead of a “Solid Waste Management Plan” we had a “Resource Recovery Plan”? Organic materials like food waste, paper and yard debris (which by weight make about 45% of what is landfilled) can be composted into soil amendments for growing local food and flowers. Metals and plastics with a high commodity value can be sorted and sold. Items that are in good condition can be refurbished, up cycled and reused. Maybe waste-to-energy could be an option for whatever is left.
Right now, we simply put into the landfill anything we no longer want, and that is a serious problem. A cultural shift is happening across the nation called the Zero-Waste movement. It is a journey individuals, businesses and municipalities are taking to divert 90% of materials from landfills. The many parts to its success include policy, incentive, education and support.
The CBJ should be taking quick steps to make sure our community is a vibrant capital city with a modern approach to dealing with our waste. Five states have bans on landfilling organics. Cities, like Austin, Texas, have clear Zero-Waste plans with strategic short-term goals within their long-term visions. Atlanta airport is going Zero-Waste. Alaska Airlines has a “Fill Before you Fly” campaign to encourage people to bring their own reusable water bottles. This movement is happening all around us!
While our eyes may be on the city or on Assembly members to tackle this issue, it is up to us, the citizens of Juneau, to make it happen. We need to voice our concerns and demand action be taken, and we also need to take direct action. I am creating a working group to tackle Juneau’s waste/resource issue. If you are interested in joining or learning more about the group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We all can be part of the solution.
• Lisa Daugherty is a sustainability advocate, a mom and a business owner. She has volunteered over 5,000 hours to run Juneau Composts LLC so the community has a closed-loop place for its food scraps and yard debris to go.