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Region 10: Human-centered Design to Improve Management of Household Hazardous Waste Programs in Alaskan Tribal Communities

2020 Regional-State-Tribal Innovation Projects

Because of their remote location, Alaska's rural tribal communities have limited options for disposal of hazardous waste – which often means disposal in an unlined landfill or burning without any emissions control. Backhaul Alaska is an EPA-funded pilot program that coordinates the hauling of hazardous waste out of rural Alaskan communities using empty cargo space in barges and planes on return trips.  Beginning in 2021, a 10-year plan will expand the Backhaul Alaska program to serve 160 communities across Alaska.

This project will employ a human-centered design approach (i.e., a methodology that focuses on the needs of end-users) to create a mobile application for backhaul service operations. A data management app will be created that supports different user needs including tribal and municipal government staff, citizens, program administrators, and others. The app will help individuals in rural Alaska villages manage inventory, track shipments, and submit observations that impact waste management operations. The app will also support program implementation such as optimizing transportation logistics. Anticipated project results include cost-effective program operations, reduced health and environmental risks, and support for each tribe’s capacity to manage their local backhaul program. 

Partners: Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Kawerak, Inc., and Zender Environmental Health and Research Group.