Getting recycling out of Alaska can be a long process as materials can sit at Alaska Airlines for a bit, but one employee up north presented a solution to get recyclables out quicker.
Caitlin Auktweena Tozier has been working on Alaska Airlines for over three years and is also lending a hand as a technology specialist at Kawerak, a Native nonprofit company in Nome that works to help the community through programs such as education and natural resource management as well as economic development.
Tozier has seen firsthand the recycling her community gathers, however, those materials would sometimes sit on barges destined for Seattle for months. According to Tozier, materials such as heavy equipment, lead-acid batteries, and electronics come in and never depart. Because of this, Tozier found a solution.
Water jugs are used a ballast, a process of using water or other materials to help with stability onboard airplanes, to deal with the strong winds that frequent in Nome. Tozier proposed and idea to the Alaska Air Cargo management group that those jugs could be filled with recycling. Once it was agreed upon, teams took action.
After successful test flights, Alaska Air Cargo launched the program, spawned from Tozier’s idea, that transports up to 50,000 pounds of recycled waste annually out of Nome.