Solid Waste

Nez Perce Tribe Solid Waste Program

Program Manager – John Wheaton BIOS

NPT SW Logo Color

The Solid Waste Program (SWP) was designed for the protection of Water Quality for groundwater and surface water systems.  The SWP has increased capacity as a result of Tribal lands being identified with multiple illegal waste dumping sites on water runoff locations which decrease fish populations, degrade the land, and pose potential risks to water quality.  The overall harmful impacts to the environment are decreased as a result of the SWP operations of providing education outreach, waste disposal options, and building partnerships.  Primary operation for the solid waste program are identifying and cleaning up illegal dumps, recycling/waste diversion, recycling processing, and operating a waste collection for fee site.

Partnerships have been formed with Counties, Cities, State, and Federal agencies to help identify the need of the waste stream assessment within the Nez Perce Tribal boundaries which similarly encompass the Central Idaho District II Public Health boundaries.  The Nez Perce Tribe (Tribe) received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2006 and contracted through Rudolfi Engineering to conduct a waste stream analysis or later called the Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan.

Nez Perce-ISWMP

Illegal Dumps

Waste is frequently illegally dumped in open dumps on or near roads and in watershed ravines that affect the ground waters of reservation communities.  There is a need to help identify, monitor, and investigate persons responsible for illegal dumping and to develop solutions that transcend jurisdictional boundaries. Some of the open dumps are not large enough to be considered “illegal dumps” by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Indian Health Services, but these dumps still pose problems and attract further dumping.

Dumpsters that have been put out for clean-ups by the Tribal Housing Authority are being used illegally by non-tribal community members and commercial operations and have become expensive and time consuming to maintain. Maintaining the availability for these dumpster sites costs approximately $50,000 per year. This expense is anticipated to jump each year with increased tipping fees charged by the transfer stations and this inhibits the Nez Perce Tribe’s Solid Waste Program (SWP) from developing an economically sustainable program. The Tribe’s Solid Waste Management Code includes enforcement and penalties for illegal dumping. Unfortunately, the reservation’s “checkerboard” land ownership patterns have resulted in jurisdiction issues that hinder efforts by the Tribe to enforce its regulations against offenders.

The lack of funding has prevented effective education outreach to the community. Currently there are minimal educational outreach resources and few facilities for proper waste disposal. Inadequate infrastructure, high disposal costs, and long transportation distances create economic and convenience incentives for illegal dumping. The lack of a policy framework and enforcement has created the conditions for illegal dumping to flourish. Mixed waste is being dumped in the most sensitive areas of the Lapwai Creek Watershed in terms of human health, salmon and steelhead restoration, and water quality. While considerable work has been done in the watershed to create maps, clean up illegal dumps, and to improve water quality as part of fisheries habitat programs, an assessment is needed to identify sensitive areas and to prioritize areas for cleanup, protection, and enforcement.


Identified factors contributing to illegal dumping include: a lack of environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternatives for solid waste disposal; the absence of an effective policy framework; the absence of proper waste disposal education for individuals; and the lack of coordination and communication among local, tribal, state, and federal entities regarding illegal dumping. These gaps indicate the need to increase knowledge, change behaviors, build capacity, and develop a coordinated effort among partners. Coordination with counties and municipalities through partnerships will assist with ensuring that state and tribal laws are consistently enforced.



Currently, the SWP is leading efforts to increase recycling and proper waste disposal practices on the Reservation, which encompasses 30 small, rural communities. The Tribe implemented a centralized Recycling Center three miles south of tribal headquarters in Lapwai, Idaho, beginning fall of 2013. Opening the Recycling Center was a big leap forward in infrastructure for community and regional-scale recycling. Building on this success, the project will increase recycling by educating residents about proper waste disposal practices and locations of waste diversion facilities throughout the Reservation. The Tribe has a vertical full-penetration down stroke baler providing 42 tons of pressure to bale recycled material.  The bales created are 60”Length X 30”Width X 48”Height and due to the large crushing power, this baler is capable of baling all sorts of materials such as cardboard, plastic bottles, tin cans, aluminum cans and much more.

Tribal cultural teachings of the Nez Perce emphasizing the values of nature and environmental protection are passed down from generation to generation. The Solid Waste Program (SWP) fuses Tribal cultural and environmental values with technical assistance on waste management that builds on the concept that all things are interconnected, or more conceptualized as the “Circle of Life”. Reduce, Recycle, and Re-use have been Tribal teachings from time immemorial before technology and social change disrupted traditional practices. The SWP’s goals focus to bridge the gap between traditional Tribal values and current waste disposal practices of Tribal and non-tribal community members within the Reservation boundaries. Training and activities will help individuals understand the benefits and strategies to Reduce (reducing the waste stream), Recycle (separate waste materials) and Re-use (renewing a waste for use) and provide opportunities to teach others. Recycling illustrates how community members show their ownership in taking responsibility for waste in their community.  Close knit Nez Perce tribal communities historically worked together to protect the natural ecosystem.  However, in some cases these traditions and practices have been lost but can be revitalized through small community efforts such as taking part in recycling.

A primary focus of the SWP is to increase opportunities for recycling. The SWP currently is responsible for collecting plastic bottles, aluminum cans, tin cans, paper, cardboard, and just recently began collecting bulk metal from residents, and there are plans for collecting much more. From January 2014 to October 2014, there has been a total of 55 cardboard bales with an average weight of 1200 pounds, collected from the Clearwater Casino, Camus Express, Commodity Foods, Office buildings, and from Kamiah’s  collection from recycling trailers.  The total of cardboard equals 40 tons or 80,000 pounds.

July of 2014 to October 2014, the Tribe’s SWP offered to the public to collect any unwanted bulky metal waste from residents, and in a few months collected nearly 8 tons or 16,000 pounds.  Our other large collections of recyclable material are aluminum cans, plastic bottles, paper, and tin cans.

Recycling Lapwai

Kamiah’s recycling

1) Wa-A-Yas, 2) Early Childhood Education, 3) Orofino Fisheries, 4) Cherry Lane Fisheries, 5) Commodity Foods, 6) Senior Citizens, 7) recycling trailers at Itse-ye-ye Casino

Cardboard (Main collection)

1) in all aforementioned areas, 2) Kawkeye Building Supply, 3) Veterans Building, 4) Commodity Foods, 5) Both Casinos, 6) Cherry Lane Fish Hatchery 7) Senior Citizen Centers

Pictures of office recycling receptacles:

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OP-Bag LC recycling Throughout Tribe

Community Recycling:

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Recycling Trailer

Recycling Trailer


Dump for fee

SW Account application form

Flyer SW collection

Lapwai Valley

Tribe SW drop location Brochure Revision

The Nez Perce Tribe Solid Waste Program has the capacity to provide solid waste collection with 3 dump trailers and 6 roll-off containers.  In February, 2015, the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee mandated that a collection site be implemented behind the proposed Old BIA Headstart building located on Bus Barn Lane.  The design for the plans are to collect a fee from residents, $18 per resident within the Lapwai Valley and $20 per resident outside the Lapwai Valley.  The collection site has been implemented and in operation since April 1st, 2015 Fridays and Saturdays from 10am to 2pm.

There has also been a fee set up for the roll-off containers which are set at a $200 flat rate per 20 yard container and $150 flat rate per the 15 yard container.  Containers will be delivered but the renter will have to load the container themselves, then the SWP will pick the container up when it is full and dump it.  The proposed time limit is 3-5 days to complete the filling of the container so that each container can be available for use for the next operation.