A gas station advertises elk jerky and guns and ammo. Near Yakima, wood pallets are stacked high ready to handle the vast hops and fruit harvests of sprawling plantations. The drive from B.C. through eastern Washington to the Columbia River takes several hours, every turn framing a different picture of rural life. My destination, Klickitat County, has fewer options than most areas, which is why it’s made the most of an imported commodity: garbage. Roosevelt (pop. 79 according to old census figures) on the northern bank of the Columbia River, is home to one of the largest landfills in the U.S.
Run by Republic Services, the massive Roosevelt Regional Landfill sits in a natural bowl high over the Columbia River. It’s gusty enough to support fields of wind turbines nearby. The chain link fencing around the site catches the major irritant – plastic bags – before they are blown away, and an employee tours the site constantly to collect them. No odours leave the site either, says the management proudly. That’s because as soon as the waste is dumped, it is compacted and then entombed with a thick soil cap.