The trend in landfills is towards bigness. According to Richard Porter in The Economics of Waste, “At the start of the 1970s, there were 20,000 landfills in the United States, but by the end o the 1980s only 6,000, and by 1998 barely 2,000.” Small, municipally run landfills have been replaced by large regional landfills, largely because more stringent regulations have made small-scale landfilling very expensive.
One such regional landfill is just outside of Arlington, Oregon. We visited Columbia Ridge Landfill, operated by Waste Management, where all of Seattle’s garbage goes. The Columbia Ridge Landfill is big, with a 700-acre permitted footprint and a 12,000 acre facility footprint. They receive about 2 million tons of garbage every year.
The District Manager, a man named Kelly, gave us a tour of the facility. Usually they drive a suburban for small tours, but someone else was using it so we…
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