Alaska’s remote villages have a trashy problem

Meet the new garbage man

MANAGING rubbish in Alaska’s bush villages—small communities accessible only by boat or aircraft and often hundreds of miles from the nearest highway—is hard. Waste—including freezers, computers and vehicles—piles up with no easy way to remove it. Rural landfills, which are mostly open, unlined and unmanaged, spill across tundra and into nearby rivers, and hazardous materials leach into soil and water. Smoke from burning trash blows into villages, sometimes closing schools. From 2020, funding from the Environmental Protection Agency that has been essential for dealing with rubbish in these remote places will disappear.

Jan Olson is the City Administrator in Hooper Bay, a village of about 1,200 people at the edge of the Bering Sea, where children learn Yupik in school. Mr Olson describes his home as a “hunter’s dream, a gatherer’s dream”. Open tundra stretches for miles. A short distance from the village, residents can fill their...

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