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Boreal Community Media

Moccasin Landfill Closure: Community Meeting Recap and Next Steps

Mar 01, 2024 07:48AM ● By Content Editor
Image: UMN Extension NE RSDP

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - February 29, 2024

Over 20 residents gathered at the Cook County Community Center on Monday, February 26th, to learn about the upcoming closure of the Moccasin Landfill. The UMN Extension Northeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships program (RSDP) hosted the informative and collaborative session, outlining the challenges and opportunities this closure presents, as well as providing the opportunity for community members to provide input, ideas, and share concerns. David Abazs, Executive Director of RSDP and Natalie Lavenstein, AmeriCorps Member and Sustainability Project Coordinator were the presenters. Dustin Hanson, co-owner of North Shore Waste; Tim Nelson, Director of the Cook County Land Services Department; Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; and Cook County Commissioners Ann Sullivan and Stacey Hawkins were also in attendance. 

Moccasin Landfill Closure in 2026

The Moccasin Landfill, serving the North Shore and beyond, is scheduled to close in 2026 due to reaching capacity. Simply "building a new landfill" brings a variety of concerns including environmental, social, and economic impacts. Notably, the State of Minnesota hasn't permitted a new landfill since 1993.

Read more: "No space for expansion": future Moccasin Landfill closure prompts Cook County initiative to reduce waste

Moving Towards a Sustainable Future

Instead of focusing on a new landfill, the RSDP, along with regional waste officers, has developed the Northeast Regional Solid Waste Management Plan. This plan prioritizes:

  • Waste Reduction: Community members learned that up to two-thirds of the current waste stream could be diverted through a variety of efforts.

  • Recycling and Composting: Expanding access to these programs is an integral part of waste reduction. Two pilot projects are already underway; a recycling project at the Finland Community Center, which includes a recycling trailer equipped with cameras to prevent contamination and dumping, and a composting project at a local farm near Grand Marais (you can read about this closed-loop composting project here). It was shared during the presentation that this project is important because if successful, could be adopted by other local farms. All of the Counties that make up the Arrowhead region of Minnesota are seeing a reverse trend in farming by increasing the number of farms in the area.

Community Engagement

Public participation is central to the plan's success, which is why the RDSP created the Northeast Communities Recycling & Composting Collaborative. The Collaborative focuses on community engagement, including conducting community meetings throughout Lake and Cook Counties and Grand Portage, and through a public survey

Early survey results were shared during the February 26th meeting and showcased:

  • A desire for more accessible recycling and composting options, including curbside pickup.
  • That cost savings and environmental benefits are key motivators to reducing waste.
  • Concerns about managing potential odor issues and attracting wildlife with compost bins.
In addition to learning about early survey findings, community members had the opportunity to participate in table discussions during the meeting. These discussions included brainstorming recycling and composting possibilities and potential challenges that are specific to the Cook County area. 

Community meetings have been taking place all along the North Shore in Lake and Cook Counties this week. A meeting date and time is still being determined with Grand Portage. 


Next Steps

The RSDP will use the feedback gathered from the community meetings and survey to develop community-specific solutions. A Zoom meeting on March 20th, 2024, will present project ideas for Lake and Cook Counties, and Grand Portage. Residents are encouraged to attend and stay involved in shaping the future of waste management in the North Shore. For communities that want to move forward with some or all of the solutions, RSDP will assist in securing grants and other resources.

Cook County Transfer Station Update

Hanson provided an update on the Cook County Transfer Station Project and shared that securing funding remains a focus. A state bill requesting $2 million in funding has been submitted, and residents are encouraged to contact State Senator Grant Hauschild and Representative Roger Skraba to show their support.

Related: Climate Action Plan Presentations at the Grand Marais Public Library: Local young adults are calling the community to support climate crisis action

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