Tuesday, April 28, 2009


#7 Where does your garbage go?

Today is pick-up day for the recyclables. We fill up that bin about twice as fast as our "trash" bin. This can be a good thing, by the fact that perhaps the materials actually do get recycled. Or it could be regarded as a bad thing, since we are obviously overwhelmed with disposable packaging. But the answer is that, ideally, about 2/3 of our garbage goes to a recycling center in downtown Phoenix and gets separated out to be made into more disposable packaging, paper and other products like carpets and fleece.

The other quarter of our garbage goes to a landfill west of Phoenix. Our local landfill used to be just a mile to the east of us, but was declared full and closed about two years ago. Now we deliver any excess, especially yard waste from pruning the ever expanding trees, to a transfer station about five miles away. We actually visited there yesterday to deliver nine giant hefty bags full of weeds (in photo above) that I plucked from a community clean-up project I've adopted near our home. From there the waste is appropriately separated (green waste in one area, metals in another, "real" trash in another, etc.) and loaded into huge trucks to deliver to the new landfill.

I used to compost, but did not enjoy the side effect of a burgeoning population of cockroaches, crickets and mice that ensued. The cats were great at keeping the mouse population down, but much as a I love insects, the cockroaches creeped me out. I used to put out sticky traps, which would collect dozens of roaches each night. We finally turned the compost piles in with some soil to create two big raised bed gardens. Composting sounds really great, but the reality is better suited for a community garden or farm setting where the pile can be well separated from the home. So now our compost goes to the landfill, where I'm certain it will play a useful role in bio-degrading the rest of the trash.

The good news about our landfills is that the old full one is planned for restoration to create a regional recreational park. And I recently read that the new one will be teamed up with windmills and solar arrays to produce sustainable energy for the city!

Waste disposal services are one of those under-appreciated city services that if suddenly halted, would rapidly result in even greater urban chaos. Be kind to your dumpster drivers!


Jackijo said...

I took a tour of the recycle center a few years go. It was very interesting, but sad to hear how many people abuse it. They get anything from dead animals to complete car engines in those blue bins.

I still compost, Kathy. I have two small raised gardens and rotate them every year between growing and composting. I do keep it covered and so far don't have too many bugs. The lizards love it!

Allan Stellar said...

Trash collection is a problem in our rural area. We don't have garbage or recycling service. This requires a certain amount of commitment on our part, because we have to haul our garbage about 16 miles to the dump. The money that we collect for recycling usually, almost, covers the ten dollar charge for dumping our trash there.

Many neighbors can't afford to make a trip just to haul garbage. So they often burn it. Or they just let it lie around on their property (sometimes storing it in spare trailers). Inevitably critters get into the garbage, making it a dangerous eyesore. A major problem for rural america.