Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Behind the scenes at the landfill

I'm so sorry if you're reading this while having your breakfast, but yesterday I popped down to a Suffolk landfill site to do a brief interview with the BBC's Mike Cartwright for News 24.

The story was to cover the news that landfill tax is increasing and that in Suffolk, we have only six years left before our landfill facilities reach capacity.

Suffolk County Council's Assistant Director for Environment, Bryn Griffiths, was also there and it was very interesting to get some extra background info on the challenges of waste management and the problems of methane gas created by biodegradable waste dumped into landfill.

If you've never been to a landfill site, I fully recommend a visit as it is a real wake-up call, even for ardent recyclers.

Just the sight of the bin lorries dumping the rubbish can make you feel ill. Then there's the smell, which is gross and if you are able to hang around long enough, you'll see all sorts of things that could easily be recycled or reused.

Amongst the gone off food, there were old shoes, plates, socks, paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, plastic bags and children's balls, much of which could have been recycled. You name it and it's in there somewhere.

Every time a layer of rubbish is added, the bulldozers cover it with earth. It was a bizarre feeling to realise that I wasn't actually standing on a hillside but on top of a mountain of waste.

At one point Mike Cartwright picked his way through the pile of rubbish, to deliver an intro for the BBC News 24 studio. Now that represents commitment to a job, as does the fact that the news team had spent nearly five hours on location.

Of course a trip to the landfill site wouldn't have been complete without taking my own week's rubbish along, you know the familiar small bag that only the size of my bin's wheel.

But do you know what?

I felt guilty just leaving it there on the side of the bank.

It was a bit like littering.

I know it was a landfill site, but all the same it didn't feel good.

In today's society, we've got so used to throwing things away and today's visit woke me up the fact that there is no such place as away, as once quoted by author Andrew O'Hagan and Anita Roddick.

I once described car boot sales as the graveyard of consumerism. I now know I was wrong. The real graveyard of course is the landfill.



Joyce said...

It boggles the mind, doesn't it, that we have so little time left to make use of current landfills. And no one will want a new one added to our neighborhood when the old one is full! Here in Illinois, they are very hard to site because it is flat and the water table is quite high. Our trash is now being hauled 40 miles away to be buried in another county. As you can imagine, that is pretty costly.

Jami said...

I just wanted to let you know that you have inspired me to recycle more and compost.

The day that I found your blog, I read the entire Zero Waste Challenge. I find it truely amazing what you accomplished. And....that I can do that too.

It is frusterating that companies don't try to package items so that we can recycle them (Cereal boxes with the plastic bag inside). I can't belive how much bread we go through now that I am aware of those plastic bags not being recycleable.

I showed my boys how much we throw away in a week. Then add that up to how much we throw away in a month. It is a horrendous amount!

I am so glad that I have stumbled across your blog. You are amazing, I plan on keeping track of this others person you are helping lower their amount of waste.

Thanks again! :)

Anonymous said...

This is such a humbling post. I'm an emotional wreck today, so this bought tears to my eyes (for the second time. I saw someone cutting down a perfectly healthy tree this afternoon, for no other reason than it was 'in the way' and that always gets me going).

Anyway, I think you are really brave to go to a landfill site. Part of me would love to go, but I think it would be so harrowing; I'm sure I would see some images that would never leave me. In a way this is good, of course, but then I get really down when I see that so many people do not have the awareness of what there weekly rubbish is doing to the planet.

i do not say this to be judgemental, merely that so many of us are sleep walking through life. I've written some stuff in the past about 'there is no such place as away'; thanks for the reminder - I must dig it out.

Congrats on the BBC programme too - that's awesome!

Peace and love,
Mrs G x

Jami said...

It is me again. I have been on the internet all day looking at composting and recycling. lol I think I need a life. :)

I was thinking how do you know what to put into your compost bin? From what I've read you should not put meat & poo. But how did you find out that you can put dryer lint in there? And didn't you say that you could put your dryer sheet/fabric softener sheet in there also? I can understand the lint but the dryer sheet puzzles me. I've looked on the box and it says that it is made from woven fabric. So is one to assume, hmmm... "fabic", I know that's biodegradeable (please excuse my spelling). I wish there was a site with a list of all things that can be composted. I guess the things that are questionable to me are the non food items.

I am excited I have just found instructions so I can make my own wormery. Yeah!!! I found it at I think my boys and I are going to have fun doing this this weekend. Wish us luck.

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi joyce - I know what you mean. Last year I visited our family in Bristol over here in the UK and went to an exhibition where I found that the city's waste was put on a train and taken over a 100 miles away to Bedfordshire. I was astounded. As you say, it is pretty costly to maintain.

Hi Jami - Thank you very much for your kind comments. When I set up this blog, it was to chart my own family's situation, dealing with what we were doing in a humorous context. After all the thought of cutting down our waste did seem mad. At the time, I hadn't realised the actual importance of what I was doing.

I am now glad that I did set up the blog and that people are making good use of my own experience. I suppose it's what companies invest millions in...simple knowledge management!

I've just seen your note about composting. It's great that you're giving it a go. There is a very good site that's worth a look, which will help you:

Good luck with making your own wormery. That sounds a great project for the boys. Thanks again for your support and do keep following Ruby's challenge. I think we both need all the support we can get LOL.

Hi Mrs Green - Yes it was a very humbling experience. I really wish I could have captured it all, but even on video it isn't the same as actually being there in person.

I'm afraid there is a worse tale on the way with today's guest post from Italy. Now that is something I cannot imagine at all.

I know you're not being judgemental in what you say about people not knowing what we're doing to the planet with what we throw away. I also worry that when I say that everyone could make more effort, that people will think that I am also judging others. However, I'm not. I used to think I was great at recycling. However, I now know that I was really pants at it.

It's the extra knowledge that made the difference for me. And if it means people reducing what they buy just by one thing a week, or indeed recycling just one extra thing a week, the power of that would be amazing, wouldn't it?

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