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Editorial: Life after Northampton’s landfill

As the last days of Northampton’s Glendale Road landfill count down, the city is hearing from residents who want to maintain the site as a waste transfer station. Extending the life of the landfill would have been the right choice. But with that decision done and gone, the Department of Public Works’ plan to focus household waste collection at the Locust Street transfer station, across from Smith Vocational, makes sense.

And, in our opinion, the discussion about closing the main landfill is distracting attention from other important steps the city is taking to help residents manage trash.

Beginning Monday, the Glendale Road landfill, which accepted trash and recycling six days a week, will only be open Saturdays for bulky waste items. It will also allow limited leaf and yard waste collection. Now, all trash and recycling will go to Locust Street.

The argument to keep Glendale open at least some days a week for waste and recycling comes largely from residents who find it more convenient. Having two trash-disposal sites for the city is a major added expense and Locust already gets a lot more traffic than Glendale Road.

Since Northampton’s household waste disposal costs are relatively low compared to other communities, and since adding costs only lifts the expense of waste disposal, it is not an option we support. The fee-based disposal system will already see an increase in the costs of the blue disposal bags.

Some worry about traffic tie-ups on Locust Street (Route 9) and long waits to park, especially on Saturdays. Traffic is a concern on Locust, but we suspect residents who haul their own trash will, when possible, adjust the days or times they visit to avoid the Saturday crush. The transfer station will be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For many who work, and especially those who work out of town, Saturday is the only option. We urge the DPW to consider flexible hours at Locust Street if the demand warrants.

For one thing, the Locust Street lot provides a lot of recycling options: bottles, cans, paper and cardboard, scrap metal, used oil, antifreeze and batteries. In addition, food waste composting is now free with a vehicle permit.

The composting program takes a surprising range of food waste, bones and even food-soiled paper products like table napkins and paper plates. It can cut the amount of waste going into the blue bags significantly.

The fee for vehicle permits will remain unchanged at $25 a year and income-eligible residents can get a discount.

The city is also expanding opportunities for residents to dispose of other unused goods. Coming up are collections for electronic and hazardous waste recycling and other bulky items.

The DPW has also been hosting “truck sales,” basically tag sales in which people sell unwanted items they bring to the vocational school parking lot in their cars. We also urge action on the plan to create a drop-off/swap center for unwanted items that are still in good condition and could be used by someone else.

It’s our trash. We need to own it and be responsible for its disposal. The more we recycle, the lower our disposal costs and the less impact on the environment.

As the landfill closes, that is where the discussion needs to stay focused.

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