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Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.
Those used to be words people lived by. Until we became the disposal society and, awash in consumer goods and plenty, we began to throw stuff in the dump (back when there were still dumps) that was still perfectly usable, or re-usable.
Things changed. Dumps closed. We use landfills now and we recycle stuff and many people compost their food waste to keep it out of the waste stream and to make their gardens better.
Fast forward to Vermont in 2013 where the Moretown Landfill recently closed its doors to private customers and this week closed its doors to its trash haulers because of a state Agency of Natural Resources order. The landfill is appealing that order and the appeals court just ruled that the landfill could remain open during the appeal process.
The social media has been abuzz since the landfill closed and Moretown residents – who used to pay 50 cents a bag to take their trash to the dump – have expressed their dismay at the cost prohibitive price of getting rid of their trash.
First, welcome to our world. Everyone who lives somewhere besides the host town has been paying 10 to 15 times that much to get rid of their trash for many, many years and we’re all looking at waste disposal fees going up depending on where the trash ends up going and depending on whether the Moretown Landfill prevails in its appeal.
Secondly, this trash crisis, if it can be called that, points to the stupidity of dirt-cheap rates for getting rid of trash. When it is really expensive to get rid of trash, people figure out how to pay for less trash going to the landfill. They recycle, they compost, they re-use or re-gift what they no longer want.
Landfills are not meant to be places where we can empty our houses of all our unwanted possessions when we get new stuff and to price trash disposal in such a way that favors that behavior is ridiculous and dangerous for the planet.
We need a landfill and we need one that is environmentally safe and well operated. But we also need rates that do not encourage cavalier attitudes about how we deal with the waste we generate.