Spring cleanup gives Haines an annual reminder of how our so-called “system” of waste and recycling management is antiquated and dysfunctional. It’s antiquated in the sense that generations ago America’s towns and cities realized that pooling together and requiring all residents to pay for a basic, mutually agreed upon trash service keeps communities cleaner, provides better service and fairly shares the high cost of this public necessity. It’s dysfunctional in the sense that, in a small, isolated community of just 2,500 citizens, three firms compete for the waste and recycling dollars – none of which receive enough revenue to fully function.

To the mad-as-hell spring cleanup participant, hoping “they’ll start giving citations” for illegal dumping, that outcome is unlikely. Besides a rarely enforced ordinance on littering, Haines Borough code provides zero about managing municipal solid waste. Our borough’s non-regulation equates to trash pick-up fees in Haines being roughly twice that of Petersburg, Wrangell and Sitka. Why?  Because in Haines, self-hauling is the norm and trash pick-up is the exception. Thus, very few collection customers share the high cost of operating a comprehensive collection system, so each pays more. To provide for this public necessity, our comparable neighbors invest, regulate and educate where Haines has not.

Burl Sheldon