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Monday, September 26, 2011

garbage, landfills and recycling, oh my!

We went on a fascinating field trip to the local landfill with our homeschool group. We toured the hazardous waste area, the old and current landfills and the recycling center. The big mountains with the environmental fabric and tires on them had methane pumps that capture the methane expelled from the garbage and sent it to a little power plant that used it to generate power for around 350 homes. In the future (like in a 100 years), we were told, the trash will be dug up, burnt at a super high temperature,  and the exhaust will be captured and used as an alternative fuel.

It was all pretty interesting, but we were still disturbed at the 2,000 tons of garbage brought in daily. We saw huge garbage trucks dumping recyclable cardboard into the landfill. We were told the majority of the garbage is from packaging. So, even though it is hard to imagine living in modern society without refuse, the huge majority of garbage could easily be reduced based on simple, daily choices. This trip motivated me to step up my actions and not be as complacent as I have become in the last year or two.

And even though we recycle, the clear choice is that it is better to not consume the products at all. The argument that recycling takes, in some cases, as much energy as producing new goods was illustrated. Between the collecting, sorting, cleaning, and then selling and shipping the raw goods around the country (and the world), we did not leave the recycling plant with a warm, fuzzy, feeling.

My kids alerted me to the irony at the end when the tour guide was lecturing us about making good choices as she was drinking a bottled water, and there were other half drunk waters littering the room. We were then given a thick plastic bag with recycling paraphernalia - all headed back to the landfill.

Do you know where the garbage does in your town? Have you visited with your children? What did they think? (My kids were not as disturbed as I was - they wanted to go rummage through the garbage looking for treasures).


  1. Last spring our family visited the local waste treatment plant. It was truly horrifying to me. My kiddos thought it was disconcerting that there was so much trash. We are really trying to reduce what we use and find others uses for that which we no longer need. Thank you for the reminder.

  2. We visited our local landfill recently. I think the biggest thing my kids came away with is that you are supposed to call it a landfill not a dump! We also visited a water treatment plant, which turned out to be much more interesting than I expected - lots about chemistry.

  3. Amazing pictures. Such a great conversation to have with the littles. Thanks for the reminder.


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