What is Backhaul Alaska?

Backhaul Alaska coordinates the hauling of harmful waste and materials out of rural Alaska communities and, by ensuring responsible recycling, returns them to the World’s Circular Economy. To help support the Program, an expanded role as a waste service for agencies, businesses, and development projects doing business in rural Alaska is planned, as is a value chain return service for Product Stewardship initiatives.

Why is Backhaul Alaska Needed?

There is no safe way to discard harmful wastes in rural Alaska, and backhauling is expensive and logistically difficult.  A well-coordinated statewide backhaul program will reduce risks to health and the environment, stretch rural Alaska’s limited dollar, and protect subsistence resources.

What’s the Timeline for Backhaul Alaska?

A two-phase Pilot Program for community spent electronics, lead acid batteries, and fluorescent light bulbs operated from Summer 2018 – December 2021. The Pilot included 26 communities.

The Full Program is in the process of rolling out with a total of 40 communities for 2022, and will expand to all of rural Alaska over a ten-year timeline. It now includes fish net shipping and is piloting other materials.

Did You Know?

Because of their remote and isolated nature, Alaska’s small rural communities use unlined landfills without leachate treatment and burn wastes without emissions treatment. They are the only communities in the country allowed to do this by law. These conditions result in harmful contaminants released to the local environment that Alaskans depend on for food and water. Because most landfills are close to town, residents can additionally breathe toxic smoke. To be safe, hazardous wastes must be hauled out by barge or plane.

How Does the Program Work?

Backhaul Alaska backhauls waste cheaper and more efficiently because:

  • Each region has a single point of contact for their communities
  • Each community is trained in streamlined and uniform protocols
  • Every rural waste generator contributes to the program
  • Innovative efforts to reduce, reuse, and refuse spent materials are encouraged
  • A “control tower” optimizes material transport and price brokering
  • Transporters and recyclers spend less time and incur less liability risk

In time, Backhaul Alaska will operate as a full management service for any entity generating waste in rural Alaska.

For greater detail, click here to access the Backhaul Alaska draft plan.

What is the history of the program?

There is a long history of individual villages backhauling and regional projects in Alaska, but prior to Backhaul Alaska, there was never a statewide backhaul effort. The Solid Waste Alaska Taskforce (SWAT) oversees the Program and is actively involved in all aspects of its development. The following table lists the dates and steps towards developing the Backhaul Alaska Program:

2014Senator Murkowski conceives Adopt a Barge;
The Solid Waste Alaska Taskforce (SWAT) formed at ATCEM
2015An expert statewide backhaul panel convenes and adds to a framework;
Framework is further developed at Regional Tribal Reps meeting
2016Community/transporter/agency meetings take place;
A Draft Statewide Sustainable Backhaul Plan is developed
2017The Plan is vetted, refined, and implementation begins
February 2018Pilot Project 1 kicks off
June 2018First Pilot Backhaul Training is held
February 2019Pilot Project 2 kicks off
Spring 2019Material Backhauled from Pilot 1 Communities
May 2019Second Pilot Backhaul Training is held
November 2019Selection Process for Control Tower entity completed
November 2019The Backhaul Alaska Advisory Board is formed
December 2021The Pilot Program ends successfully with 26 communities served
Spring 2022Backhaul Alaska rolls out the full Program with 40 communities
2022Worked with and helped facilitate backhauls in 26 countries and shipped 462,778 pounds of potentially hazardous material out of Alaska.

For information about the Pilot Program click here.