By editorial board • 

Landfill’s time has come and gone

Waste Management has lost on virtually all fronts in its bid to expand Yamhill County’s Riverbend Landfill for extended life.

It has lost in the offices of government, the halls of justice and, perhaps most importantly, the court of public opinion. It has lost repeatedly and decisively, ending with last week’s crushing Supreme Court rebuke. The prospects of a turnaround are virtually nil.

The time has come for the company to initiate an orderly closure and reclamation process. It owes that to the community, which has suffered the burden of its adverse environmental impacts and corrosive expansion bid far too long.

Riverbend’s main customer, Portland Metro, voted in May 2017 to begin diverting trash to a Waste Management fill in Arlington. The city of McMinnville followed suit later that year, opting for Southwest Washington’s Headquarters Landfill.

Those actions decreased the stream of waste once flowing to Riverbend to a veritable trickle. Mac customers incurred a 10 percent increase for the longer haul, by now absorbed and serves to eliminate any leverage Riverbend might have wielded through the threat of higher fees.

Waste Management achieved governmental success with the three-member county commission. But back-to-back victories by outspoken landfill foes Rick Olson and Casey Kulla, have tilted that body 2-1 against.

In judicial proceedings, opponents have prevailed repeatedly with the Land Use Board of Appeals. Now they have a ringing Supreme Court declaration to further buoy their prospects, and have shown an ability to keep proceedings tied up indefinitely, despite the occasional setback.

The company lost traction in the community much earlier. If there are landfill supporters in the court of public opinion, they remain silent.

Waste Management is the largest waste collection and disposal company in North America. At last count, it operated 249 landfills, 305 transfer stations, 42,000 employees, 21 million customers and $14 billion in annual revenue.

Its Arlington landfill occupies 12,000 acres, only 700 currently in use. The existing configuration alone has a projected remaining capacity of 329 million tons and lifetime of 143 years.

Dropping the 87-acre Riverbend into Waste Management’s massive Arlington site would be tantamount to tossing a pebble into a pond. Riverbend’s proposed 29-acre expansion would barely amount to a grain of sand.

So why is this waste disposal colossus so intent on prolonging its agony in a place where it is neither needed nor wanted?

It’s time the company eliminated this tiny corner of its vast North American empire and shifted its attention elsewhere.


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