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Climate: The garbage scoop

Garbage.

Ew! Who wants to talk about that?

It's time to talk about garbage in Lake County. Traditional garbage — the stuff that ends up in the landfill — is going to get more expensive in the coming years.

Our garbage lands in the Superior, Wis., landfill, which is projected to be full sometime in the next four to seven years. This means a much longer commute for our garbage trucks.

The second reason: We have a golden opportunity, thanks to the foresight of the Lake County Solid Waste Department employees. We have Kendra, an AmeriCorps intern who will be with us for nine months. Kendra's new job is to determine our waste and recycle needs and to work with us to make them happen.

Acquiring a garbage intern may not seem like the most romantic community project, but I'll take it over a new statute any day.

Our garbage collectors and recycle distributors — and plumbers too, while we're at it — deserve the same level of recognition and gratitude as those serving our country, or our firefighters. They deal daily, without complaint, with the stuff that we don't want to deal with.

When we had a raccoon in our garbage one night, Maher Trucking collected our garbage can, as usual, and then picked up the garbage on the ground and cleaned the area up before we got to it. Now that is going over and above. We've never forgotten it.

Since we can assume garbage will only get more expensive — as it should, so that we will create less of it — we need to be prepared. Cursory discussions with many people who work in this field have convinced me that opportunities abound to sort our recyclables better and create more options for repurposing.

Currently, we recycle cardboard, newspaper, glass, cans, office and magazine paper and nos. 1, 2, and 5 plastic. When we divide our recyclables properly, and keep them clean and dry, it makes life easier for county workers. Lake County also gets a higher price for our recyclables.

What's important to you about our waste and recycle system in Lake County? Where do you think improvements could be made? What are your concerns? Kendra has created a survey that asks these important questions.

When the survey results are in, it will be time for the county and its citizens (us) to decide how to move our recycling system forward.

Please fill out the survey. It is available at Lake County libraries, city halls, the Claire Nelson Center, the basement of the courthouse, the Beaver Bay Community Center and the Two Harbors radio station. You can fill it out right there. Kendra will pick up all completed surveys Nov. 27.

The third and final reason to talk about garbage: Waste is part of our climate problem. Our landfills emit gases that are mostly methane — 21 times more warming to the planet than carbon — and carbon. One-third of all our methane emissions come from garbage.

And think of all of the fossil fuels it took to create that garbage in the first place — stuff we often don't use more than once. We can do better.

For more information or to join the Citizens' Waste Committee, contact Kendra at 218-834-8581, email her at Kendra.klenz@co.lake.mn.us or stop by the Lake County Courthouse in Two Harbors.

This report uses information from a report on mpr.org by Dan Krakur as well as the Minnesota Sea Grant. Katya Gordon of Two Harbors is a member of the Duluth/North Shore chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby. She writes a regular column on climate change for the News-Chronicle.

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