The Backhaul Alaska Program is operating a pilot program and the first phase kicked off in February 2018. The purpose of the pilot program is to assess the cost of operating the full backhaul service program and also to develop strategies to overcome program challenges at the village, regional, and statewide levels. The pilot program is two-phased, with the first group of villages (Pilot 1) backhauling in Summer 2019 and a second group of villages (Pilot 2) backhauling in summer 2020. Pilot communities are comprehensively trained, work with their regional coordinator to develop adequate infrastructure, conduct a material inventory, and package and ship out materials with the help of the program.
The full pilot program will examine all aspects of backhaul program operations, such as:internal communication and legal protocols; regional coordinator and village backhaul team workload; material volume and composition; specific village assistance needs; obstacles in backhaul implementation; supply chain bottlenecks for bulk purchasing; effectiveness of training; reimbursement protocols for villages; donor appreciation plan; and payment agreements for vendors and transporters. For further details and latest developments of the pilot program see our seasonal bulletins.
The pilot communities were selected to best represent a range of several parameters that the program needs to examine: population size, plane vs barge supply needs, backhaul experience, region, and logistics-specific issues. The Selection Committee included members of SWAT, Green Star, EPA Project Officers, ADEC Solid Waste Program, and the Regional Tribal Operations Committee. Selected communities for each pilot include:
- Arctic Village
- Chefornak/Nelson Island Consortium
- New Stuyahok
- Chignik Lagoon
- Hooper Bay
- Larsen Bay
- Old Harbor
- Port Heiden
- Port Lions
- Saint Michael
- Scammon Bay
Comprehensive Backhaul Training for Pilot Communities
A key element of the pilot program (and the Backhaul Alaska program in general) is the required comprehensive Uniform Backhaul Training that must be taken by anyone in the program. Anyone that is preparing and packaging materials through the program, must have Certified Signer status which is given after full completion of the Uniform Backhaul Training. The Uniform Training for Pilot 1 communities was carried out on June 24th – 29th, 2018 in Anchorage, and trained thirty-four individuals, plus Regional Coordinators. The Uniform Training for Pilot 2 communities was carried out on May 20th-24th, 2019 in Anchorage, and trained thirty-five individuals, plus Regional Coordinators from Nome, Dillingham, Kodiak, and Fairbanks.
Both trainings were taught over 5 days, and trainees were concurrently enrolled in three University of Alaska, Fairbanks courses for a total of 3 class credits. Together, these classes cover the full curriculum developed by an expert group of transporters and recyclers. Included within the trainings was OSHA 10 hr Construction Safety certification and DOT HMR General Awareness, Function Specific, and Safety Training. Trainees complete Security Awareness online and submit their certification to the Program prior to beginning backhaul activities. In addition to classroom work that covers such topics as recordkeeping, loading, required forms, and management of a community collection point, two afternoons were devoted to function specific training and testing at the Total Reclaim Alaska warehouse.
Multiple stations were set up for participants to practice and be tested on proper packaging and labeling for batteries, electronic wastes, and fluorescent lights. In the case of batteries, both plane and barge transportation rules were covered. Each day, trainees were asked to write down their notes on the various tasks needed for a successful local backhaul program. On the last day, trainees completed a composite action plan that broke down each task into achievable steps and timelines.
Full topics covered in these 5-day trainings included:
- Identification of Hazardous Materials
- The Hazard Classification System
- Using the Hazardous Materials Table
- Markings and Labels
- Shipping Papers
- Understanding of the HMR Training Requirements
- Requirements for Incident Reporting
- Lifting Safety
- Mercury and Battery Spills
- Full DOT HMR (HMR General Awareness, Function Specific, Safety, and Security Training)
- And more…
Community On-Site Trainings
When communities join Backhaul Alaska, we will work with them to assess their needs in packing and safety supplies. These supplies are tailored to each community’s inventory and transportation logistics and posted out, typically arriving in the village by small plane. For example, communities are required to have on hand adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for each of their backhaul team, and most lack mercury and battery spill kits, labels, shrinkwrap, etc. Those shipping by barge may lack pallets, and those shipping by plane may lack battery totes. Many communities also lack a basic shed to stage their materials so Backhaul Alaska purchases shipping containers for their use.
Once a community has received their supplies, on-site training and facility inspections are carried out prior to the backhaul event by the Regional Coordinator. Communities are evaluated for adequacy in the following areas: Supplies and PPE, Facility Conditions, Staff Competence, and Packaging status. Packing, labeling, and loading protocols are reviewed and checklists for inventory, safety gear, appropriate signage, and recordkeeping are signed off. When needed, staff receive individualized training to gain sufficient skills. Once a community passes this inspection and they have a Backhaul Alaska-trained “certified signer” to verify the packing was carried out correctly, they are scheduled for backhaul.
Besides training and testing community backhaul staff on-site with the materials and facility they will be using for their backhaul event, these site inspections serve other purposes. New Regional Coordinators are accompanied by an experience Regional or Statewide Coordinator so that they are trained in how to carry out inspections. By using a train-the-trainer approach in each region builds consistency and conformity throughout the system. During the visit, the Coordinator assists the team in improving the safety and organization of their backhaul facility, typically making a marked difference in the community’s waste infrastructure.
Pilot Program Timeline
Pilot Program Structure
COVID-19 Planning – Community Backhaul Status Tracker Tool
After postponing the 2020 Pilot Program backhaul events until the 2021 summer backhaul season, Backhaul Alaska has continued to be proactive by switching its planned Winter training to distance delivery, and developing options to carry out the critical local backhaul program readiness inspections. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is still with us and community transmission is a continued risk. To forecast best resource needs and timing for each community backhaul event under the Pilot Program, we developed a Community Backhaul COVID-19 Response Tracker.