Rebuttal to Dr. Geoffrey Kuter’s Brief for Landfill Expansion

Dr. Geoffrey Kuter recently submitted this letter (PDF) in support of expanding the Northampton landfill. We present it and then offer our rebuttal. Concerned citizens are urged to attend the January 27 Board of Public Works meeting.

Our rebuttal:

The city has operated a landfill for a generation yet our recycling rates lag behind most of our neighboring communities and the statewide average (MS Word document). This history suggests that having an economic incentive to entomb more tons of waste is powerful, and more than offsets any recycling benefits that might accrue from having control over how our solid waste is handled.

We don’t share Dr. Kuter’s confidence that landfill expansion will not increase environmental risks. It is inevitable that the landfill liners will degrade and leak over time.

The landfill expansion ballot question was simple and fair. It was debated extensively during the mayoral campaign, as documented by’s video recordings.

The Landfill Alternatives Study suggests that any additional costs to Northampton to export its waste will be modest, on the order of 5-20%. There is also the prospect that landfill capacity in upstate New York and Pennsylvania will increase as New York City is slated to divert its waste elsewhere. If we’re exporting waste out of state, this would likely benefit us. But if we’re operating our own landfill, we might suffer if our clients defect to lower-cost operations.

We do agree with Dr. Kuter that attractive opportunities beckon in recycling our source separated organics.