What's new with garbage in Lake County, and what's coming?

Thanks to some dedicated county employees, it is now easy to know. It's nice to imagine that whatever we don't want just disappears, but that has never been the case, least of all now.

Here is a quick summary from the last meeting of the Lake County Waste Advisory Committee, which is attended by haulers, county and state employees, elected officials, nonprofit reps and public citizens:

Waste, including recyclable waste, is getting more expensive to dispose of. China no longer accepts most of the recycling materials we used to send their way. Markets for recycled materials are generally down.

Within the next 10 years, garbage is going to get more expensive. The landfill near Superior, where our garbage has gone for years, is almost full. Other landfill options are much farther away.

The good side of this is that, as always, there are as many solutions out there as problems, and Christine McCarthy, environmental services director at Lake County, is the first to say that these changes can be good news if we think creatively.

Already, the county is thinking ahead. A new recycle trailer, purchased with grant money at no cost to local taxpayers, will soon accompany public events. Putting recycling bins in public places will greatly reduce the burden the city pays for tourist garbage.

Glass, which is difficult to recycle in the current market, could soon have a unique and beneficial purpose as drainage material, possibly padding the new demolition landfill site. Old tires may soon find many new uses.

Garbage is really very interesting. Topics at the meeting included personal and community composting possibilities and the importance of buying recycled materials so that our recycled garbage brings us a higher price.

Here's the bottom line: When your hauler informs you that the price of garbage pickup is going to increase, don't blame the messenger. Use it as an opportunity to refuse, reduce, reuse or, if all else fails, recycle.

If thinking about garbage is distasteful to you, consider it an exercise in emotional and spiritual wellness. We need to look our own failings straight in the eye in order to get rid of them, or at least render them dormant.

Any Christian should be able to tell you not just "I'm a sinner," but exactly what some of those sins are.

No faithful attendee of AA will rely on a vague tendency toward alcoholism; they will tell you exactly how they go wrong.

Often, it's when I am feeling disgruntled or unproductive that I decide it's time to go through the recycling. I don't know about you, but by the time I've got my bags and bins of aluminum, glass, paper, magazines and cardboard all neatly lined up in the trunk of my car, my outlook has improved. And the guys at the recycling center are always so cheerful!

It must have to do with the psychological value of cleaning and organizing: Out with the old and in with the new. When I drive home I feel cleared out, refreshed and renewed. I glance into the garage just to enjoy the empty bins. It beats a detox diet or a colonoscopy any day.

What does garbage have to do with climate change? Stay tuned for next week's column.

If you are interested in learning more or seeing how you can participate, contact Christine McCarthy at 834-8327. Or, sign up for the new homeowner's class through Community Education. Class begins in January.

Katya Gordon is a volunteer for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and a Two Harbors resident.