Sanitary landfills (now there’s an oxymoron) are quite often situated along the primary gateways to the community they serve. Sure, an expressway allows for easy access to the dump by those dingy looking and overloaded welcome wagons of trash. They converge on these mini-mountains like motorized cockroaches, drawing thousands of flying rats (seagulls) to the site.
But, my question is why place one of your least sightly land uses right where anyone and everyone can see it? Is it meant to be a not-so subtle deterrent? Considering that first impressions are lasting, a landfill a lousy way to introduce ourselves? It’s like greeting visitors and newcomers alike with a clear demonstration of how much shit we produce.
Here in Michigan we are particularly bad about siting sanitary landfills along primary highway corridors. Just north of Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport, are several mega-landfills along I-275. You’d think the region was suffering from the mumps given how out-of-place and unnatural these artificial mountains look compared to the generally flat landscape around them. One former landfill south of Detroit is even nicknamed, Mount Trashmore. Frankly, I cannot think of a worse way to welcome visitors from around the globe to our state.
Garbage gateways can be found here in Michigan along I-96 northwest of Lansing,; along U.S. 127 north of Lansing; adjacent to I-94 southeast of Kalamazoo; and in a plethora of other very visible sites. The litany of landfills in this state provides a visual anthesis to the sanitized “Pure Michigan” signs, billboards, slogans, and related spin. Our state has many very beautiful locations, but its waste legacy and many of its landfills are not among them. Perhaps, the next promotional theme could be “What a Waste!”
Michigan is certainly not alone in siting landfills at gateway sites, as one is greeted by a landfill along I-94 in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago and along other key transportation corridors in many states. Landfills seem to have become the 21st century equivalent of automobile junk yards set at the outer entries to cities across the nation.
I realize that until we achieve zero waste production, landfills are a necessary evil, but must they be situated in a manner as to be the unofficial gateway to the community? Let the stupid motorized cockroaches travel down some less-traveled road to dump their loads or better yet, let’s come up with a cost-effective (and mandatory) method for producing zero solid waste so we don’t need landfills any longer. Zero Waste America has some suggestions on its website for accomplishing that goal. Hopefully, Michigan and other states across the country will soon put more of these suggestions into practice.