Cruise ship companies left behind a shocking three million pounds of trash during the 2019 summer tourism season in Juneau, the capital city of Alaska.
This is especially worrying for a community who expects their local landfill to be full by 2040.
There are few other viable locations for a new landfill site and that could mean that like other Southeast Alaska communities, Juneau might have to ship their trash south.
Local government can’t do anything about it
Because both the Juneau landfill (owned by a Texas company) and the cruise ship industry is private, local government are unable to regulate what seems to be the needless dumping of certain items.
“We don’t regulate waste, garbage and hauling of garbage. So anything that we’re able to do will be by negotiation with the cruise lines,” Juneau City Manager Rorie Watt told the local news station.
Juneau is about 1000 kilometers southeast of Anchorage. A local resident, Linda Blefgen, claims that it’s not only standard waste which is being dumped by the cruise ships.
“Bedding, 200 chairs in September, furniture, slot machines with electronics removed, water ship line and much more,” she said.
“Why do they choose to dump here? Why are they allowed to dump this volume when we have such limited space for our landfill?”
The rubbish left behind by the ships reportedly comprises 5% of the total garbage thrown into the landfill by locals.
The amount of trash from the cruise lines has, however, been increasing substantially. In 2018 the amount was 1.8 million pounds. In 2019 that rose to 3.3 million pounds – nearly double.
Part of the problem it seems is that certain large ships have dispatched some of their trash incinerators, in order to meet carbon emissions standards. So they wouldn’t be able to dispose as much of their own waste as in past years.
Climate change in Alaska is adding to the problem
The landfill dump reaching full capacity is not the only issue.
Due to climate fluctuations, the frozen ground is thawing more frequently. As a result, more waste is seeping into the ground.
This causes groundwater pollution, which eventually enters into the Alaska river system and then into the ocean.
A promise to address the problem
Mike Tibbles of the Cruise Lines International Association Alaska says that research is being done ‘to see which vessels are off-loading and how much’ and that there is a ‘goal of trying to reduce that amount as much as we can going forward’.
Image Credit: Adelyn Baxter/KTOO