Trash Talk: Douglas County Landfill’s Nearing Expiration Date


The compactor going over the trash to pack it down. Photos courtesy of Tamara Howell of the Douglas County Landfill.

Ceyuni Dick and Kimberlee Lyman

Have you ever thought about how limited our space is in landfills? Our landfill is small compared to other landfills in the area. Created in 1996, it is 26 acres and is about 200 feet deep. There are ten transfer sites and one landfill in Douglas County.

Our nation of nearly 324 million people produce more than 700,000 tons of garbage everyday. “The average American produces four point four pounds of trash every single day” said Public Information Officer, Tamara Howell.

“One of the biggest problems at the Douglas County landfill is the expiration date,” said Josh Klein, the Solid Waste Landfill Supervisor, who has been in this position for twenty-one years.

Ten years ago, the Douglas County landfill should’ve only had 3 years left, but the workers and supervisors, like Klein, combined their minds and stretched that date for another ten years.

Due to the rate of decomposition of various trash, landfills fill up quickly. Some things decompose quickly, some can take up to one million years.

To combat this, landfill workers use a 836k landfill compactor made by CAT to drive over and pack down the trash in order to make more room. As of November 2022, 62,259 tons of trash was placed and compacted by the compactor. This doesn’t completely solve the problem though.

Things like Styrofoam that don’t break down keep the process going. Though they keep packing it down, it continues to build up over time and shortens the landfill’s expiration date.

Another item filling our landfill is plastic. Humans have made tons of things with plastic. It’s one of the main things we use in our everyday lives. It seems that plastic is not recycled enough causing it to build up all over the nation.

“It eats up air space is what we call it,” said Garrett Lampton, Transfer Site Supervisor. If it isn’t recyclable or doesn’t decompose it creates a problem for the landfill.

Another way they’re working on extending the expiration date is sending trash to other landfills nearby, such as Rogue Transfer & Recycling in White city which is the biggest landfill in Oregon.

“With us exporting our stuff out of Douglas County, it gives us time to figure out our future and what we’re going to do to provide for our county,” said Lampton.

One thing they discuss is how to decrease the environmental impact. They do this by recycling the leachate or trash water that the landfill produces.

As of November 2022, at least 4 million gallons of leachate were pumped and transported. Each truckload only holds 5,500 gallons of water. Three hundred seventy thousand seven hundred and sixty gallons of leachate has been transported to the Wastewater Treatment Facility in Winston, so the water can be recycled and used for different purposes.

On top of this, wood waste is being recycled as well. Six thousand one hundred sixty-three tons of wood waste has been processed and distributed to DC citizens for use as mulch.

The wood that people send to the dump is picked out and goes through a machine that shaves it down creating wood pellets. It can be used for many different things; it can be burned, some schools utilize it as wood chips, and it can also be great for your soil.

Recycling is also an important component and will reduce the amount of trash in the landfill. Although, recycling ended a few years ago in Douglas County due to people recycling trash instead of recyclable items. This caused the companies who purchased our recycling to stop.

Recycling is slowly being brought back; cardboard can be recycled at transfer sites. Glass is also being recycled. It’s collected and shipped to other facilities.

Not all glass is transferred. Some glass is sanitized, crushed, and reused at the landfill as part of the water filtration system.

Batteries can also be recycled and reused. One of the problems is that batteries that end up in the dump get crushed and explode during the compaction process creating landfill fires; this is completely preventable, just take your batteries to a recycling location.

The community can help by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Doing this can make the Douglas County Landfill last even longer.