Trashed

img_4527.jpgThere’s nothing like an elementary-school field trip to make a parent feel like trash.

I went to the dump yesterday with my son. Technically it’s not a “dump” it’s a landfill, but hey I have always called it the “dump”. I thought I was good a recycling. I thought I was good at minimizing my trash production. But that field trip changed me.

The people in my local area have produced more garbage in the past 16 years than the 50 years prior. We, as a general population, are garbage machines!

Why? Because we have so many modern conveniences that we just trash. Fifty years ago people didn’t have paper towels, swiffer mops or disposable diapers.

Now we have it so easy. We clean something up. We throw the paper towels in the garbage. We take the can out to the curb and it’s taken away once a week.

It’s gone. Right? WRONG. It’s sitting in a dry tomb in a 70-acre landfill 10 miles from my home.

I have been so naive when it comes to my trash. I thought for sure it was compacted then it magically decayed. Nope. I found out that the landfill lines the trash on top and bottom with plastic. In a way it preserves it and houses it forever beneath the soil.

Sure there’s a tractor that runs over top of the trash with spiked wheels. It breaks it up a little. But Utahns on average produces 8 pounds of garbage per day. Per day!!! That’s 3.5 pounds higher than the national average. It can’t be breaking it up THAT much.

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Why does this matter? Because eventually we will run out of room to dump our trash. At the current rate, my landfill has 15 years until it will be too full. Then they will have to ship my trash an hour and a half away in a location in Utah County that took 20 years to secure.

That’s going to cost more, take more time and produce more pollution than I want to think about.

So what can I do? What can you do?

The answer is the same thing I learned when I was in elementary school – reduce, reuse, recycle.

Stop using so much trash. Honestly, I don’t know if I would ever switch to cloth diapers but it bothered me that 2 percent of the waste of the dump is made up of disposable ones.

That is a lot of poopy keepsakes entombed forever in my neighboring town!

So what can I do to reduce waste? I feel like recycling is my number-one goal. I know it’s a pain to rinse out things like plastic containers and metal cans, but it’s one way I can lessen my trash output.

Second, I’m going to try to stop cleaning up spilled milk with paper towels. Sure it’s not as convenient and sometimes the rags I’m using smell milky after (especially because I do laundry as infrequent as possible) but simply using items I can reuse will drastically decrease my trash output. Tupperware instead of sandwich bags, cloth grocery bags instead of plastic ones, those are they types of things I can use to help reduce my 8-pound-a-day amount.

Third, I’m going to look into purchasing a composter for my food scraps. I love to garden. This should be a no-brainer for me. If I can figure out how to use the nutrients from my leftovers to benefit my plants it is a win-win.

Finally, I’m going to make sure no one would want the things I dump before I dump them.

I found out yesterday that before the items are pushed off of the unloading dock at the dump, workers sift through the piles looking for hazardous waste as well as items that can be recycled like tires, metal and glass.

They also search for treasures – things that are in good condition that can be resold.

They have actually opened a second-hand thrift store on the grounds similar to the DI or Savers. They employ workers who may have disabilities and teach them to work while selling things that don’t need to be trashed. They call it the Pioneer Adult Rehabilitation Center. It’s really cool.

The dump was an amazing place. They are taking my trash – many of it I really shouldn’t even be producing – and they are trying their best to make it smaller for me.

They sift through the trash to remove items that can be disposed of differently and they also help mulch down green waste into wood chips. They actually lose $350,000 a year by taking people’s green waste and smashing it down. But they do it because they want to keep it out of the landfill.

They do a lot. Now I’m going to give them a hand. I challenge you to do the same. That way my great, great, great grandkids won’t end up on a spaceship orbiting earth like the people in Wall-E. They deserve better. I’ve got to do this for them.

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