Community Action Works
Community Action Works

These neighbors are saying Don’t Waste ME

Most people don’t know where our trash goes when we throw it away. But Ed might.

If not for the forest cover, it’s possible that Ed Spencer could see your trash from his backyard.

Ed lives a mile and three-quarters away from the largest landfill in Maine: the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town, Maine. From his backyard, you could almost see the landfill’s mountain of garbage that comes from all across the Northeast.

If something is threatening your health, your community, and your environment, chances are you and your neighbors want to stop it but may feel that nobody will listen to you. At Community Action Works, we believe that when you and your neighbors take action, your community will join you.

And in Ed’s case, his neighbors did join him. Back in 2003, Ed was the first to raise his voice when he found out the landfill in his backyard was set to expand. Now he’s a leader in Don’t Waste ME, a coalition of people across Maine working for responsible policies that protect the health of communities most at risk from landfill pollution.

“There’s no worse feeling than that you’re all alone in it. I found out back in 2003 that I wasn’t.”

– Ed Spencer

The worst environmental threats are often located in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities and poor communities, and this landfill is no different.

The state’s largest landfill is located among working class, white communities and threatens survival for members of the Penobscot Nation. The landfill is right between two tributaries to the Penobscot River, where pollution from the landfill threatens fishing, hunting, and the habitat for medicinal plants.

The landfill is also directly adjacent to the aquifer that provides drinking water for many more people.

But Ed and leaders in Don’t Waste ME and the Penobscot Nation have been fighting this landfill for over 17 years, and together they’ve figured out one change that could make a big impact. Maine has a rule that no trash from out of state can end up in state-owned landfills. But there’s a giant loophole that allows trash to come across the border, mix with Maine trash, and go right into the landfills anyway.

Don’t Waste ME is calling on the Board of Environmental Protection to close that loophole, keeping out-of-state waste out of Maine and moving towards a zero waste system that protects communities living near landfills.

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