The Heap

Most Unwelcome

A study noting that people don’t want to see landfills built in their communities is about as shocking as revelations that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens used steroids.

Still, a recent survey published by the Saint Consulting Group has to be at least somewhat dismaying to the solid waste industry.

The report found that landfills are the most unpopular type of real estate development in the United States. Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed said they would oppose the construction of a landfill in their community. Casinos and aggregate quarries were next on the most unpopular list, with disapproval rates of 77 percent and 62 percent, respectively. (And here I always thought the American dream was to live next to a quarry.)

If there is good news to be found in the results — and I’m admittedly reaching here — it’s that the landfill disapproval rate has been higher in previous surveys, although this year’s rate increased one percentage point from the 2008 report.

So, what are landfill owners and operators to do? Frankly, it’s hard to imagine the overall national attitude about landfills ever dramatically changing. However, it’s quite possible for an individual landfill to develop good relationships with the surrounding community.

In “A Balancing Act,” a feature in the upcoming April issue of Waste Age, Joe Benco and Dave Call of Republic Services outline the steps that those developing a new landfill or expanding an existing site can take to develop a positive relationship with the neighbors of the facility. In short: get the public involved early and often. The Indiana landfill profiled in the story created a pheasant habitat and undertook several other initiatives to build the trust of the local community. Landfills may not receive the heartiest initial welcome from the surrounding area, but they can become trusted and valued neighbors. And they should make every effort to do so.

At Waste Age, we’d like to detail more of these kinds of landfill success stories. Please e-mail me at [email protected] if you have an interesting tale to tell.