Shoes and Pig Pong Balls: Storing Marine Debris in Kodiak

debris_in_yard_sept_2014.jpgPicture of Island Trails Network marine debris storage yard in Buskin Valley. Photo by Tom Pogson

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Walking through the beaches, you might find a pile of shoes, some scattered ping pong balls, or old fishing nets. That’s just some of the marine debris that washes up on local shores.  

Some of that can come from shipping companies. Tom Pogson is Director of Education, Outreach, and Marine Programs at the nonprofit, Island Trails Network.

“I think the shipping companies are trying to maximize the profits,” says Pogson. “They’re trying to carry more and more freight, there’s more and more demand for freight, and when those containers are washed off of a container ship at sea, some of them get busted open and all the stuff that’s in there – it floats.”

The collected marine debris quickly piles up to huge quantities in Kodiak. He says, in the past, Island Trails Network and the Kodiak Island Borough have had issues dealing with it.

Pogson says Island Trails Network currently uses a yard on Coast Guard property in the Buskin Valley to hold its waste. He says, this July, a barge is scheduled to land in Kodiak to pick up the yard holdings. It will also go to other locations along the coast.

“The barge is gonna go down the coast, join up with another, bigger barge, and that bigger barge is gonna receive all the marine debris that’s been collected off the coast of Alaska in the last two or three years, and take it into a landfill in eastern Washington,” says Pogson.      

Pogson says money the Japanese government donated after the 2011 tusnami will be funneled into the project through NOAA.

Joe Lipka is the Solid Waste Manager and Environmental Specialist for the Kodiak Island Borough. He says the borough is working on extending the landfill and it will soon be able to accommodate marine debris.

“Now that the new regulatory compliant line cell should be completed summer / fall, we do have obviously additional capacity, so we would work together with Island Trails Network as they brought in waste from their cleanup operations around the island,” Lipka says.

Right now, Pogson says that Island Trails Network is low on funds to fuel those operations.

Lipka adds marine debris is too bulky for dumpsters and says individuals can bring their collected debris to the landfill before the extra space is completed.

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