Alaska, which is famously only accessible by air, sea and dogsled, Caitlin Auktweenna “Auk” Tozier knows intimately how important it is to recycle.
Tozier has worked as an Alaska Airlines ramp agent for over three years and also as a technology specialist at Kawerak, a Native nonprofit company in Nome that helps the community through programmes ranging from education to natural resource management to economic development.
Tozier has witnessed her community’s efforts to gather recycling, which can sometimes sit for months on barges bound for Seattle. Materials come in and never depart, according to her. Heavy equipment, lead-acid batteries, and electronics are examples of items that are both expensive to carry and hazardous to the environment if left unattended. As a result, Tozier was inspired to take action to correct the situation.
Tozier fills and loads water jugs used as ballast as part of her profession as a ramp agent, a technique in which water or other material is used onboard an aeroplane to help manage or maintain its stability – something that is required given the severe winds that are common in Nome.
Tozier brought the suggestion to use recycling as ballast to the attention of the Alaska Air Cargo management group and her station manager, Crystal Andersen-Booth. Actions were started when the group came to an agreement.
Alaska Air Cargo launched a programme this spring to transport up to 50,000 pounds of recyclable waste annually out of Nome after successful test flights last summer (before the ground froze in Nome). This programme is all thanks to Tozier’s creative thinking and will aid in clean-up efforts in remote communities along the Bering Sea and conserve precious water resources.
A smaller airport like Nome is now able to make a significant contribution to the company’s bigger recycling efforts through the new recycling programme, which unites operations across Alaska Airlines to decrease Alaska’s environmental impact.