Bald Eagles Are Stealing Trash from a Seattle Landfill and Dropping it in the Suburbs

Residents understandably want a solution. The only good one might be for them to learn how to better manage their trash.

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SEBASTIEN SALOM GOMISGetty Images

People living in the Seattle suburbs are : Residents are reporting that bald eagles have been dropping trash into their yards, and no one is quite sure how to deal with it.

The main issue is the open-air landfill in the area, the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in King County. That landfill was supposed to have been closed years ago, but a proposed expansion has kept it open. In fact, that expansion is meant to keep the landfill exposed until 2040.

In the meantime, over two tons of trash are brought to the location every day, and the free food has attracted hundreds of bald eagles and other large birds. Landfill staff estimate that around 200 eagles have made the area their home, scavenging for anything they can find and dropping their scraps everywhere else.

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.

Many of the residents want the county to cancel the proposed expansion and finally close the landfill. In the meantime the residents are hoping to implement some sort of anti-eagle measures at the landfill, although it’s not entirely clear what those would look like.

There’s something almost poetic about the American national bird reminding people that the trash they throw in a landfill doesn’t simply disappear. In a way, these birds are a visceral demonstration of the usually hidden consequences of extreme consumption. We create too much trash, and that much trash creates consequences. That could mean eagles dropping biohazard containers in your front lawn, or it could mean nearly 20 tons of plastic washing up on one of the most remote beaches in the world.

While some short-term solutions like closing a landfill or pulling trash out of the ocean might temporarily fix the problem, the only way to really live in a world where our trash doesn’t come back to haunt us is to be smarter about how much of it we create.

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