As landfill closure looms, North Shore leaders and communities evaluate waste management
Northeast Communities Recycling & Composting Collaborative

As landfill closure looms, North Shore leaders and communities evaluate waste management

As the planned closure of the Superior Landfill in 2026 nears, communities on the North Shore are invited to help shape the future of waste management. The Northeast Renewable Sustainable Development Partnership (RSDP) is working with Lake and Cook Counties, and Grand Portage, to evaluate residents’ needs with an eye toward waste reduction and sustainable management through a project called the Northeast Communities Recycling & Composting Collaborative.

Natalie Lavenstein is an AmeriCorps sustainability project lead who is coordinating with the RSDP on the effort to conduct a feasibility study to help asses community needs. The study focusses on establishing and strengthening recycling and composting programs across the target communities.

In an interview with WTIP she said that she viewed the landfill closure as a potential opportunity for the North Shore. She said, “I think this opportunity presents kind of a crossroads for these communities. Are we going to choose conventional waste management, or are we going to look at how we dispose of our waste? And how we can make that impact less negative for our communities? And are there even positive ways that our waste can have in our communities?”

A positive potential impact that Lavenstein identified is the prospect of a closed-loop recycling system, where food scraps generated in a community is then made into compost locally, and used to enrich soil for growing food for residents in the area. The Northeast Communities Recycling & Composting Collaborative has a pilot program planned for this spring that will connect several local restaurants with a farmer in Cook County. The famer is leasing equipment through the RSDP program to enable them to do farm scale composting to test the viability of a coordinated composting system.

Beyond working with individual farmers, Lavenstein said that the Northeast Communities Recycling & Composting Collaborative hopes to engage many more people in future composting efforts. She said, “We want to include homeowners and visitors and everyone in between.”

An important element that Lavenstein identified in the feasibility study is public engagement. She explained that the RSDP is currently looking for feedback and ideas from the public in two ways. First, the group is conducting a survey to gather information about public knowledge and interest around recycling and composting. Second, they are holding a series of public meetings across Lake and Cook Counties to speak more directly with community members. She said, “These meetings are to hear the voices and hear what the lived experiences are, and what they want to see in the coming decade.”

Lavenstein said that while the RSDP is organizing with several government entities to coordinate waste management across the area, the way different communities use the study’s findings will be flexible. She encouraged residents to attend the public meetings in their area to help ensure that the study results reflect specific needs. She said, “The more people show up and the more they voice their opinions, I think those plans can can actually come to fruition and be specific to their community.”

The public meetings that the RSDP is holding to discuss waste management through recycling and composting are:

  • Feb. 22, Cedar Coffee Co, Two Harbors at 5:00 pm
  • Feb. 26, Community Center Log Cabin, Grand Marais at 6:30 pm
  • Feb. 27, Birch Grove Community School, Tofte, at 5:00 pm
  • Feb. 28, Finland Community Center, Finland, at 5:00 pm
  • Feb. 29, North Shore Area Partners, Silver Bay, at 5:00 pm

Lavenstein said that the meetings will be about 90 minutes, and that it would be helpful if people planning to attend would RSVP through the survey link.

WTIP’s Kirsten Wisniewski spoke with Natalie Lavenstein, a sustainability project lead with AmeriCorps working with the UMN Extension Northeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, about the Northeast Communities Recycling & Composting Collaborative and efforts to plan sustainable waste management.