Residents of suburban Seattle have found themselves in a unique, unpleasant and occasionally biohazardous situation.
Hundreds of bald eagles have descended upon the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill near Renton, Washington. The eagles have been seen diving between working bulldozers to grab bits of the 2,500 tons of trash deposited daily. But the eagles’ adventure doesn’t stop there.
Nearby residents are reporting that the same bald eagles spending their time landfill diving are now dropping trash from the landfill in their yards. Are the eagles returning what local humans have seemingly lost? Perhaps the eagles are attempting to teach area residents a lesson?
While those living in suburban Seattle are understandably annoyed at the recent development, one has to admit the situation is rather ironic. Residents don’t want their trash—or anyone else’s for that matter—in their backyards. Suffice it to say, the eagles probably don’t want that trash in their backyards either.
“At a recent meeting, one resident held up a biohazard container filled with human blood—one example of the kind of waste carried by eagles into residential neighborhoods,” according to Popular Mechanics.
David Vogel, not-so-proud new owner of the biohazard container full of blood, was one of almost 80 people to speak up about the issue at a public meeting in March.
“Anybody that lives within close flying distance of the landfill knows that the eagles deposit this stuff everywhere,” Vogel said. “The eagle population has exploded in the last five years, and why? Because they have a free lunch at the dump.”
The Cedar Hills Regional Landfill, located in King County, is a massive open-air landfill that was actually supposed to close two years ago. As such, it is nearing capacity, as it has been for decades. A new Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan would see the estimated closing date pushed all the way back to 2040, after a whopping $270 million expansion.
All that trash has attracted hundreds, if not thousands, of birds. The 200 or so trash dropping eagles have actually made the landfill their home, leading many King County residents to oppose the landfill expansion. Some are even pushing the county to implement a “bird management plan.” That plan would include an inventory of all large birds that live at the landfill.
According to Pat McLaughlin, King County’s solid-waste director, the county has already invested time and money in combating the eagle problem. Most recently, drones were deployed to shoo the birds away. The creative idea was quickly met with opposition. “The eagles were so aggressive to the drones, they tore it up out of the sky,” McLaughlin said.
Despite the inconvenience of it, trash falling from the sky isn’t the only concern of area residents. Many also oppose the landfill expansion due to the foul oder, increased greenhouse-gas emissions, and the potential for toxic liquids to leech from the landfill into the aquifer below.
Thanks to King County’s eagles, the issue of human trash has been brought into the light once again. Out of sight out of mind proves true when it comes to waste and most Americans. Seemingly by magic, our trash is removed from our doorsteps, never to be seen again. Perhaps these eagles are engaged in their own campaign to remind humans that this just isn’t the case. What we toss never truly disappears and there are real potential consequences to each and every item we discard.
The only real way to solve the problem of eagles dropping trash in our yards or hundreds of tons of plastic washing up on once pristine beaches is by creating less waste in the first place more than simply getting smarter about how we dispose of it.