Like most things in this state, waste management is different than in the Lower 48 due to challenges in infrastructure, engineering, transportation, weather and more. SWAT formulates potential solutions that draw upon each members’ extensive work with communities and then relies on stakeholder feedback to develop a workable plan.

Backhaul Alaska is a prime example. Following up on an idea conceived in 2014 by Senator Lisa Murkowski at the Bethel Airport, Zender Environmental sought opinions from 21 rural community representatives first, and then convened a panel of Industry and Community Backhaul experts who framed a workable approach. Joining forces with other SWAT members, multiple outreach and engagement meetings took place between 2016 to 2018 – with local communities, regional entities, state and federal agencies, air and barge lines, and recycling companies. This comprehensive feedback shaped and formed the present day Backhaul Alaska system. The Backhaul Alaska stakeholder network continues to grow, adding experts in law, economics development, and business planning into its Advisory Group.

Like Backhaul Alaska, Product stewardship is a newer SWAT-led effort that has been collaborative from the start. This endeavor began with a trip by SWAT members and EPA to visit counterparts in British Columbia and learn firsthand how a waste takeback program might work in Alaska. While product stewardship was originally conceived as a way to help pay for rural hazardous waste backhaul costs, it helps urban Alaska as well, so planning and outreach has involved multiple entities from rural and urban regions of the state.