Sunday, November 23, 2008

garbage - what a waste!

I got an up close look at a landfill for the first time last week. And boy was it up close. It was part of a project that I'm doing with TerraCycle and our assignment was to go digging around a landfill in Central New Jersey. Wow - was there a mountain of waste. Speaking to Joe, this landfill's head-honcho, I learned that this mountain was garbage collected just in Burlington county. It took them 11 years to fill up 1 enormous hole and then cover it up. They were well on their way to filling up another. Walking through all of the materials, I discovered most of what was in there could've been diverted had it been handled appropriately before tossing. There was paper, glass bottles, plastic containers, leaves. All covered with a layer of gunk. It was so gross and smelled utterly nauseating! I've been known to dig through my fair share of dumpsters and piles of garbage, but once this stuff lands in a landfill, even I don't want to touch it! There was a layer of slime on everything.

This visit reconfirmed that what I've been doing - diverting scraps before they get this far - is so important. And it made me realize that there's a supply of garbage out there that is seemingly unlimited at this point. We have a long way to go before we reach zero waste but it's not impossible. We just have a lot of work to do. I guarantee it won't be a waste.

Both photos were taken from my cell phone. The photo at top is from on top of the 11 year old landfill that has been covered with grass, looking onto the new landfill. The photo above is a "small" pile of garbage accumulated from a few weeks. Landfills get layered with garbage and then soil, so behind that garbage pile, there's another larger pile covered in soil.


  1. Great post. Hopefully it will get people to think before tossing.

  2. Great post. It's amazing how much ends up in the landfills despite the efforts of folks like you and me (and probably everyone who reads your blog too!)

    What is the project you are doing with Terracycle? I'm curious about them because I think they have a great model but a friend of mine has been having issues with them--she collects juice bags to send back to them and says they are so slow in providing the return mailers that she is backlogged with juice bags. I wonder--is it just because the program has taken off and they don't have the staff to keep up?

  3. Hey Green Cat - I'm doing a lot of design projects for TerraCycle. They have a whole range of products made from recycled materials - like from unrecyclable juice pouches and cookie wrappers. We're creating reusable tote bags, lunch boxes, kites, and a whole lot more.

    I know they're growing really quickly and trying to get the kinks all worked out of the brigade programs. Collecting and sorting garbage has way more logistics, than you'd think! I asked them about your friend and they said if she's having problems to email parker [at] terracycle [dot] net and they'll get a return mailer to her right away. Hope that helps!

  4. Hey Tiffany,
    Thanks for the tip on contacting Terracycle. The recycling is going much more smoothly, I guess I was not as patient as I needed to be! Mailers are being sent on a more timely basis and my HUGE backlog of drink pouches is getting recycled! Plus, I have some money to spend in my classroom!

  5. Hey CC - that's great to hear! I'll pass the note along to the TerraCycle garbage collection folks. Happy recycling!