Waste management is becoming a serious problem for the most northern state of the continental U.S. According to state officials in Portland, Maine the state faces a serious shortage in landfill space over the next 20 years. The problem is one that has been lurking for years, but has received very little attention in recent years. This is largely due to an statewide emphasis on recycling more waste from both residential and commercial sources. Both local and state leaders on the issue have been pushing for increased recycling as a way to curb the need for additional landfills.
The entire state currently has 12 landfills up and running for municipal solid waste disposal, as well as 19 sites accepting construction and demolition debris. Together, these sites represent over 15 million cubic yards of storage space for all of the state’s waste. However, according to waste management experts the state of Maine will require a capacity of over 22 million cubic yards by the year 2030.
There are many advocates within the state government and the waste management industry that believe the key to solving the landfill crisis is to rely on improved methods of waste disposal. Several million tons of waste could be diverted over the next 20 years by expanding composting services to residents and businesses throughout the state. Many also emphasize new technologies such as waste gasification that would provide both an alternative to landfill disposal, as well as generate additional electricity for cities. The state is currently home to 4 similar waste-to-energy plants that use incinerators to burn certain wastes in order to generate electricity.
The state remains optimistic that the projected shortage can be averted while still maintaining the same number of landfills. Maine has a very active and vocal environmentalist community and very few members of the public and government support the construction of new landfills to cope with the ever-increasing volume of trash. However, even with the state’s emphasis on conservation, the average recycling rate remains between 30% and 40%. Hopefully, both the state government and the people it represents can find a way to bridge the gap in waste disposal before time runs out.