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Plastics from North Valley Landfill litter surrounding fields following winds

Over the weekend, strong winds created an issue at the North Valley Landfill. Hundreds of plastic bags and similar waste was lifted from the landfill by the winds and carried into surrounding fields.

North Valley Landfill is the landfill used for all garbage collection in the county, regardless of the service provider. The landfill is located north of Clarkston, near to the Utah-Idaho border.

According to Tyler Richards, the operations manager for the Logan City Environmental Department, the incident occurred due to the North Valley Landfill being currently unprotected from winds after a large litter fence was knocked down.

“Plastic bags and plastic film blow every time the wind blows,” Richards said. “We have multiple litter fences in place to capture those, but this past winter, our large litter fence that’s 30 feet tall was blown over by the wind.”

Most of the trash that was blown into surrounding areas were plastic bags or plastic films. Nearby fields on both sides of the Utah-Idaho border were filled with the plastic waste.

According to Richards, the city is working on getting new infrastructure for that fence. He said that new poles and new netting is being ordered, although it may take a few months to get the fence back up.

“It should be a couple months, we’re waiting for vendors to give us some pricing back so we can go through the purchasing process here that we have to do at the city to make sure we get the best value,” Richards said. “Then we’ll proceed and get it rebuilt.”

Logan City posted a Facebook post on Wednesday, April 17 that explained the wind event and detailed ways that the city is working to mitigate that issue.

According to the post, some of the measures that the landfill is taking include closing the landfill during high wind events, purchasing the new wind fence, employing a full-time inspector to manage litter that escapes the landfill and employing temporary workers each spring to clear litter from properties near the landfill.

The post also said that the city is investing in a large vacuum skid with an eight-foot suction hose to help with swift trash removal. That equipment should be arriving sometime this spring, according to the post.

Richards said that he does not often get complaints of errant trash from the landfill. He said he communicates and works closely with the farmers with land near the landfill.

“We work with a lot of the surrounding property owners that want to lease our ground that the landfill is on and the adjacent ones,” Richards said. “If they call me, we just take care of the issue.”

After the wind event and significant scattered trash from the landfill this weekend, locals took to Facebook to share their unhappiness with the situation. In a post to a Facebook group for Newton residents on Monday, citizen William Phelps first posted about the problem.

In the post, Phelps said that the amount of debris in each field was more than any of the landowners could possibly pick up on their own. Phelps said that this is not the first time fields have been covered in waste from the landfill.

“If this were the first time it happened, or the second, I might not even bring attention to it. However, each year my friends and neighbors deal with the mismanagement of the City of Logan Landfill,” Phelps’ post reads.

Phelps called for the city of Logan to provide cleanup for the incident. According to Richards, city workers have been cleaning up the plastic since Monday. As of Friday, despite apparent significant progress on clean up, there is still a noticeable number of plastic bags littering surrounding fields.

Emily Malik, the sustainability programs coordinator for Logan’s Environmental Department, said that the issue of trash blowing out from the landfill is not specific to the North Valley Landfill.

“It’s not a unique situation,” Malik said. “It’s a management strategy that any form of waste management has to face at some point or another.”

In the Facebook post from Logan City about the situation, the city asked that people either fill plastic bags with other waste or put the bags in other bags to mitigate the amount of free plastic that can blow around.

Malik said that plastic waste comes from both citizens as well as businesses, so everyone can work together to cut down on plastic waste. She said that the plastic that blows away is not just small grocery bags.

“I think they also don’t recognize that it extends to soil bags and pet food bags and things that are maybe larger than they think would get carried by the wind,” Malik said. “But it really all acts like a balloon.”

Malik and Richards both agreed that while this can help, the main thing that would help is a restriction on plastic use.

“What we’d really like to see is some legislation or some progress towards banning plastic, or a plastic bag ban or plastic film ban,” Richards said.

“We have been working since before 2019 to try to work with plastic management in the county,” Malik said. “It’s been an uphill battle. Probably 99 percent of litter that escaped our main screens and our wind fence is plastic filament.”