Winning the Trash Talk War

            Last week the Scotland County Board of Commissioners voted not to allow expansion of an existing but closed landfill.  Opponents won the war, however, when they won the battle of “trash talk,” a linguistic victory that occurred long before the Board of Commissioners’ vote.

             A modern landfill is an engineering success story for handling solid waste. But nobody, including journalists, elected officials and citizens, can hear that story when it becomes a narrative about a “megadump” for “trash” and garbage.”

             Opponents won the trash talk battle, and the vote was foretold.  Both the Laurinburg Exchange and the Fayetteville Observer referred to the facility in articles and editorials as a “megadump.”   They discussed, as did citizens in letters to the editor, how thousands of tons of “trash” from outside Scotland County would be “dumped” in their backyard. 

             As with other political and policy issues, the available vocabulary often shapes the position one ultimately takes. 

             Every single citizen in Scotland County generates waste.  It seems everyone there is comfortable with the hypocritical position that they can send their waste to disposal facilities in somebody else’s county, but nobody else’s waste can be imported into theirs.  When landfill franchises or rezoning proposals are discussed at public hearings there is always at least one person who calls for a “regional solution.”  “Regional solution” is code for “let some other county dispose of the waste we generate.”

             Consumption of goods requires an option for disposal just like eating food requires a place to flush.  For our bodies to thrive, we have to eat.  And for our economy to grow, we must consume.

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