Landfill weighs heavily on a community

| September 3, 2013

Every year, 1,000 tons of recyclables end up in the county-owned Cherokee Recycling Center on Blalock Road in Georgia.

That’s a figure that the county-owned facility — and its single employee, Michael Johnson, are proud of.

Unfortunately, it pales in comparison to the nearby Pine Bluff Landfill, which serves a 15-county area takes in over 1 million tons of waste each year.

You read that right: the landfill takes in 1,000 times as much waste as the recycling center. While their service areas are wildly different in size and scope, it’s still an eye-opening comparison.


The Pine Bluff Landfill (not pictured) takes in 1 million tons of waste per year. From Raquel Baranow.

Joshua Sharpe of the Cherokee Tribune set out to learn more about the “sprawling” Pine Bluff Landfill, which is in clear view of several homes in a “calm, peaceful” subdivision.

Trash giant Waste Management owns the facility. While representatives from Waste Management report that the landfill isn’t projected to fill up for 28 years, it’s still an astonishing amount of waste.

Michael Johnson wishes more people would take the time to sort through their trash and identify recyclable items. The recycling center supervisor told Sharpe, “If you take out everything that’s recyclable out of your trash, you really have very little left.”

The recycling center takes “just about everything,” including “plastic bottles, any type of paper, cardboard, glass bottles and aluminum and steel cans,” reports Sharpe.

Each item recycled means one less item ending up at Pine Bluff.

In 2009, the landfill’s then-owners proposed an expansion that inspired rancor among area residents. The plan fell through, and residents say things have improved since then.

Neighbors report reduced odor and noise coming from the landfill over the last few years. Waste Management gets credit for many of the improvements. In fact, local resident Saundra Brown, whose house is in “clear view” of the landfill, says: “[Landfill operators] are not working at night; they don’t work on Sundays…I don’t really mind the dump being back there as long as they keep improving.”


Cherokee residents often find that people have neglected to dispose of waste at the recycling center or at the landfill, opting for the wilderness instead. From Chuck Redden.

The dump is certainly a preferable alternative to where a lot of Cherokee-area garbage ends up.

Sharpe spoke to Jennifer Arp of the Cherokee Water and Sewage Authority, who told him she is “routinely disappointed to find that residents have disregarded all care for the environment and thrown trash out into the wilderness. It’s particularly depressing to find garbage washed ashore along the banks of the Etowah River, which is Cherokee County’s main source of water.

It would seem that the first step, at a minimum, is education to encourage residents to properly dispose of their waste. The next priority is to facilitate recycling. While it might seem to an outsider that Johnson’s recycling facility and Waste Management’s landfill are in competition and therefore at odds, that is hardly the case.

Waste Management’s senior community relations specialist Marla K. Prince says the company is highly motivated to encourage recycling as well. “We are the leader in sustainable recycling solutions,” said Prince. “[Waste Management] has had a history of leadership in the recycling industry as the first major company to offer private homes paper and metal recycling.”

For the community of Cherokee County, the more people invested in the environment, the better.

Category: Pollution

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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