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Climate: More news on garbage

A new recycling trailer is coming to Lake County thanks to a grant. Photo submitted

Three developments have recently intertwined to shape a path forward for managing waste in our country.

Katya GordonFirst, a sperm whale was found off the coast of Spain that had ingested 64 pounds of plastic. It died because its digestive tract could not function.

Second, if you were barely aware, as I was, that China was acting as the global garbage dump, know that this lamentable practice is ending. As of January, China no longer imports the waste and recyclables that it has in the past. The waste industry in our own country is scrambling to adjust to this; plastic garbage was our sixth-biggest import to China.

I consider this excellent news in the long run, as it will oblige us to deal with our own waste. Up here on the North Shore, like everywhere else, recycling and garbage programs are feeling increasing pressure to insist that consumers separate and clean garbage more thoroughly.

The third development is actually nothing new, and has been mentioned in this column before. The Superior landfill where our waste goes will be full, probably within the next 10 years. A longer, more expensive commute for our garbage after that is likely.

Even without China's new policies, we need to manage/recycle/reduce our waste better, or pay more for our garbage.

We need to look at both ends of the problem: reducing waste, and better managing the waste that is unavoidable. Responses to China's declaration are beginning to surface — all of them positive.

Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May, has urged supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles where all the food is loose. Europeans are proposing a tax on plastic bags and packaging.

Here in Lake County, we have lots of support as we take a hard look at our garbage practices. Lake County Environmental Services is working hard behind the scenes to put more and better recycling in place. Thanks to their efforts and grant awards, you will soon be seeing a mobile recycling trailer at big events in Lake County, which will significantly reduce the county's waste.

Ultimately, our city ordinances need to be updated to reflect the growing mandate to manage our waste better. Economics will help as garbage gets more and more expensive. You will continue to read about this in this column, as climate change's link to garbage is irrefutable.

Reduce our garbage, and you reduce fossil fuel use in factories, transportation and landfills. This is one case where less truly is more. The less garbage we have in the first place, the smaller the problem.

One easy thing you can do today is look around your home and determine what single-use plastic purchases are avoidable. Then, avoid them.

Come to the Two Harbors Public Library on Monday, July 23, at 6 p.m. to learn more. Our own Minnesota GreenCorps member, Kendra, will be present to teach us more about garbage and recycling, and give practical tips that will make a big difference in Lake County's waste management.

It's a good time to look this issue straight in the eye.

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

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