It’s crucial that each of us develops the habit of stopping to think each time we dispose of something. If the item is single-use plastic, let’s ask ourselves how we might have avoided getting it in the first place. If it’s something else, let’s ask ourselves if it would be recyclable. If yes, transfer it to a recycling receptacle. Is this something that can be repaired and reused? Is this something that could be used by someone else? If yes, sell it (for example, to the Get-Up), donate it (Depot, Goodwill) or give it away (join the Facebook group Buy Nothing Winneshiek County, IA) or gift it to someone you know who can use it. Let’s try to remember that whatever we place in our home garbage is destined for the landfill.

Sanitary landfills are a necessary but not ideal solution to the problem of waste. They are scientifically engineered facilities constructed in the ground and designed to hold and isolate waste from the environment. Federal and state regulations govern the location, design, and operation of landfills in order to protect human health and the environment. We put our garbage into the ground. Each landfill takes space away from other uses—it cannot be used for agriculture, housing, or recreation in nature. Its size is finite: think of the landfill as an underground permanent garbage bin that is never opened or dumped. When it is full, the county needs to develop a new site. Although regulation landfills are designed to prevent any leaking, some landfills can still leach toxic chemicals into ground or surface water. As any biodegradable organic waste decomposes (wherever it is), it naturally releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas that absorbs heat and is a major contributor to climate change.

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