Paris Goodnight: Where will garbage go next after landfill is full?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 20, 2022

As plans move ahead for a $12 million expansion of the Rowan County landfill, I think back to what was there long before garbage started piling up. My uncle owned the property and he fought tooth and nail to keep the county from putting the landfill at what was known as the  Mingus farm off Campbell Road. He remained bitter to the day he died about the process that was used to take his land for such a purpose.

If you ever looked into the files from the Post that are being digitized in a Rowan Public Library project, one of the larger ones held all the stories detailing that effort to condemn the land. There were probably enough entries to create a book over the saga that seemed to last forever and involved court battles and plenty of back and forth from all sides as it took on a life of its own.

That’s one reason I always look for ways to keep my own garbage out of the landfill. I recycle what I can, and I even started my own compost heap in a little spot of the backyard just so more items don’t end up in the trash can.

That’s of course selfish reason, just thinking that at one point I might have had a little piece of that farm in Woodleaf since my aunt and uncle had no children of their own to inherit that land. I always wanted to live out in the country, and that was as close to an idyllic spot as you’ll ever find around here.

If you can think of any simple ways to do a little more recycling, I’d say do it, because at some point — they say about 2053 — the current landfill will have no room and the process to find a new location will begin.

Maybe you, or some youngster, will be the one to come up with a new way of recycling whatever is filling up our garbage heaps the fastest. We’ve found ways to do a lot of other amazing things, so surely that will be on someone’s list, but the payback might not be as high as some other nifty inventions that thinkers and tinkerers tend to come up with.

The Post at one point had huge bins that held newsprint for recycling, but these days they aren’t needed as much. So while we complain about the ways the internet has damaged the newspaper industry, fewer trees are being turned into paper since so much of the news now is consumed online. Some other new technology out there may change the way other material is often tossed aside after its useful lifespan is over, but we’re just waiting to find out what that improvement will be.

As for the landfill, some outsiders looking in may have wondered if my uncle just wanted more money for his land than the county was willing to pay for it. But that certainly wasn’t the case. After his time in service, he was a successful salesman and like others in this area had been an early investor in Food Town, so he didn’t need or want any more money for land that had long been in his family. He never seemed to enjoy whatever amount he got when his options for appeal finally ended and he wasn’t happy even though the final price was much higher than the first offer.

Now my take on garbage is similar to how I think of gasoline and the gas guzzlers that some people like to drive.

If you grew up during one of those gas crunches from years ago when people actually had to wait in line to fill up their car, you might have decided like I did that I’d choose to drive whatever got the best gas mileage, whether it was the coolest ride or not. Now we have electric vehicles and hear tales of possibilities like hydrogen cell technology that may help get us off gas-powered engines for good, but until either of those are well tested, I’ll stick with whatever gets me up and down the road with as little fuel as is practical.

If all that makes me sound like I lean a little toward the hippie side, well it’s just from my upbringing. If you had seen and heard all those things I did, maybe you’d have the fuel efficiency and recycling mentality I do. Even though we didn’t get to put up a house on that spot out on Campbell Road, we did settle outside the city when we bought a house in the 1990s. But we knew we weren’t out in the country any longer when we could  get pizza delivered there. I guess that wasn’t so bad after all either.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Salisbury Post.