Igiugig staves off opening new landfill by recycling

Igiuig’s recycling center. Stacy Hill / KMXT

Rural Alaskan villages are not typically known for their recycling prowess. For communities off the road system, it can be a hassle not only to ship products in, but also to deal with junk when it has served its purpose. For the village of Igiugig however, recycling is a priority.

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Stacy Hill is Indian General Assistance Program (IGAP) coordinator and environmental director for the village.

“Currently we recycle aluminum cans and plastics,” Hill said. “We crush our glass, and we put it in our roads as a foundation. Any household waste as far as moist stuff, food, we compost it for the greenhouse. We have chickens that eat scraps.”

The funding that animates Igiugig’s recycling program comes from a variety of sources. The village has been flying out cans with funding from Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling since the non-profit started in the 1982. It helped the organization pilot a program for flying out plastics in 2010. Now Igiugig is ALPAR’s most recent recipient of the Outstanding Recycling Community award.

Last year the Lake and Peninsula Borough provided the village $45,000 in matched funds to back haul 55,000 pounds of scrap metal. Hill estimates that the village still has 15,000 pounds of scrap metal remaining. When area lodges bring guests in this summer, the village hopes to send out more of that metal on empty backhaul flights.

IGAP is another major source of funding for the village’s recycling program.

“That funds our landfill. That funds our interns. We have about five or six high school kids that work for IGAP during the year. After school they help with the recycling and separating all this material,” Hill said.

For this village of roughly 70 people, recycling is about more than being environmentally conscious. It is also integral to keeping city costs down.

“It would really fill up our landfill if we were to bury all that material,” Hill said. “It’s about $3 million to $5 million to produce another landfill of our size, and nobody has $3 million to $5 million to replace what we’ve got now. So we might as well cherish what we have.”

Next on the agenda, Igiugig is turning its attention to the oil-based paints that they have stored in their hangar. This year they are applying for a hazardous waste grant that will allow them to dispose of the paint safely.