With new Anchorage waste center, city hopes to help residents minimize trash

A view of the tipping floor from the observation deck of waste services dumping waste onto the floor.
The new Solid Waste Services central transfer station, seen from an indoor observation deck, features recycling and pink compost bins at the wall where residents dump trash. (Mizelle Mayo/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage’s Solid Waste Services opened a new central transfer station last month, where municipal and commercial garbage trucks transfer their loads to be hauled to the city’s landfill in Eagle River. The station also features a separate entrance for residents wanting to dump trash, recycling, or compost — plus a “full service” hazardous waste carport. 

Kelli Toth is the recycling and information manager with Solid Waste Services. On a tour of the new facility, she explained how the city’s trash service works, and their current focus on diverting waste. She says every customer gets a free recycling container along with their trash service.


 The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Kelli Toth: Those carts, you can put anything that’s recyclable in there, like the cardboard, the aluminum, the mix paper, the number one and number two bottles, those can all go in one cart. And so solid waste services will pick that up. And then they also if you’re in that service area can get the pink bins and take part in our organic waste stream, our organic curbside…

Toth trailed off as a commercial truck on the tipping floor caught her eye.

KT: Now you see, what do you see there?

Michael Fanelli: What’s coming out of that? It looks like a lot of wood.

KT: It does. It looks like a lot of wood. So that is an example, what we’re seeing is a commercial hauler, bringing in a bunch of what looks to be like wood scraps or maybe some cardboard mixed in there. So that’s all a carbon source. And if you get into looking at diverting items from the landfill, 52% of what goes in our landfill is organics and is stuff just exactly like that. 

MF: More than half?

KT: More than half. And so if we can work to divert more of that and actually use that in a way such as grinding it up and using it as a compost additive. Why not instead of burying that in the landfill, use it for growing more food and fortifying our soil?

A tipping floor for waste from commercial companies and residential.
The tipping floor of the central transfer station, featuring mounds of landfill-destined waste the city is aiming to reduce. (Mizelle Mayo/Alaska Public Media)

MF: I just wanted to clarify, when you were talking about the service area, so anyone who’s within that service area, if they are paying for trash pickup, the recycling bin comes along with that. And then they’re also eligible for the pink compost bin, and that just comes with a small extra fee, right?

KT: That’s right. What’s interesting and what a larger conversation that we want to have is, there are many Anchorage residents outside of our service area that are interested, like “Why can’t I get a pink bin?” and it’s like, well, there is one other company that does do composting, but in a few select areas, not city wide. You know, we do have our community composting, [which] is what you see down here at the tipping floor, so people can come and drop off their kitchen scraps here, and they do.

An empty pink bin.
The new Solid Waste Services central transfer station accepts compostable items, and residents can opt in to join the Solid Waste Services Organics Program to receive a pink curbside cart. In 2022, the Solid Waste Services Organics Program diverted over 400 tons of organic compost from the landfill. (Mizelle Mayo/Alaska Public Media)

MF: And if people want to drop off their compost here, is it the same rate system as if they’re dropping off trash?

KT: No, dropping off community compost, there’s no charge for that.

Toth said you can also bring anything hazardous like paint or batteries that you have laying around to their new hazardous waste drop off zone, which she said operates like an old time gas station.

KT: They want you to pull up under the carport area here, and they’ll have an attendant come out and help you to remove whatever it is you have. So you can see here they have this used oil collection area. So your used auto oil can go in here, and then that gets recycled. 

And then we also have a reuse area in here where people can bring like, I don’t know, imagine what’s in your shed, under your sink at home, chemicals and fertilizers. Yeah, look – oh, they got a lot of stuff in here! So this is all stuff you can drop off here for free. Remember I mentioned, 40 pounds per person per Anchorage address. And the cool thing about this is you can come and take it for free. They’ve got some pretty good stuff, look at that – high gloss finish sealer, they’ve got paints and spray paints. We’d like to scale it up on a bigger scale. But you know, baby steps. You’ve got two full shelving units now – it’s a start.

Michael Fanelli reported on economics and hosted the statewide morning news at Alaska Public Media. 

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