EDITORIAL: Trash Mound Just Keeps on Growing
That huge heap at Moore County's landfill is little more than a dot in the overwhelming mound of accumulated trash around the world. But it is a serious issue here at home.
County officials appear to have the matter under control. The landfill segment currently in use is expected to last until 2010, and an engineering firm is under contract for the permitting process for the next segment, which should last until 2017.
This is comforting news, but we face the reality that 2017 is as far away as it sounds. The county is already on the lookout for a new landfill site. Unless luck is on our side, this process may be difficult for any number of reasons. Permitting procedures are complex, and land is expensive in Moore County.
This is another reason why Moore County should examine its long-range growth plans.
The current facility is a construction and demolition landfill, where only materials excavated or discarded at construction sites and related operations are accepted. The landfill also accepts stumps and yard debris, but that's about all it can take and remain in compliance with state law.
Regular household trash is transported to a regional lined landfill in Montgomery County. That's the destination for most of our trash -- our orange peels, plastic wrapping, scraps of paper and disposable diapers, for example. Much of this material is biodegradable, but because much of it contains elements that would be toxic in the water system, the state now requires disposal into lined landfills. That lining must be a heavy impermeable substance through which toxic materials are unlikely to seep.
The county also accepts white goods, the term for large household appliances (even if they're avocado), which must be disposed of in an entirely different fashion. The cost of this service is covered through a special tax affixed to every new appliance we buy.
Everything else ought to be recycled. The county has a system of container sites where residents may recycle glass jars and bottles, aluminum cans, newspapers, tin cans and even some plastic containers. The county goes a step further in setting a recycling example by grinding up stumps and yard debris, then offering this mulch to the public.
These efforts are vital but do not address trickier issues, such as disposal of hazardous materials and electronics.
Unfortunately, a major part of the population has yet to accept the reality of our trash problem. We continue to throw away easily recycled materials and buy things we don't need.
Here we run into an unpleasant dilemma. Curtailing the sale of things is not good for the economy. Likewise, we don't like to discourage newcomers. But consumerism and population growth are the major factors contributing to the need for more and larger landfills.
The public might as well absorb two uncomfortable facts: We must understand that disposing of trash will become even more expensive in the future. And we must find ways to curb the height of the growing mounds of trash in all landfills, through wise recycling measures and conservation efforts.
The place to begin is with education -- not only in the schools but also with adults who have managed to escape the obvious warnings about our refuse problem. It's that or bury our planet in litter from our wasteful society.
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