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For Garbage, Shrinking Space

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The closing of the Northampton landfill April 15 was the final signal for changes in the handling of solid waste in the Valley. The consequences of that closing are by no means limited to Northampton; at peak operation, the 52-acre facility, located on Glendale Road and active since 1969, served as a regional landfill, accepting waste from as many as 54 towns.

In 2009, after a long controversy over whether the landfill should be expanded in a way some feared would eventually pollute the Barnes Aquifer, a vital source of drinking water in the Valley, Northampton residents took a nonbinding vote on whether to close it. Though Northampton itself did not draw water from the Barnes, and though the city stood to lose money if the landfill didn’t continue to receive waste from a wide area, the majority voted to shut down the landfill, and the City Council supported the vote. The mid-April closing this year is the result.

Northampton residents will still be able to bring their household rubbish to either of two transfer stations, one at the landfill and the other at the Department of Public Works yard on Locust Street. Vehicle stickers necessary for access to the transfer stations cost $25 and are good for a year; those using the transfer stations are also required to buy special garbage bags.

The landfill will still accept yard waste 18 Saturdays a year, and refrigerators, mattresses, furniture and tires can be disposed of there. More detailed information about the ongoing functions of the landfill can be found at www.northamptonma.gov/dpw/Landfill.

As recently as 2010, Massachusetts landfills still had room for 2 million tons of solid waste, but by 2020 they will only be able to hold about 600,000 tons. The state is asking residents to help reduce waste volumes by recycling everything possible, composting food waste, and taking advantage of takeback programs run by manufacturers and retailers for electronic appliances, power tools, furniture and other products.

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