At the good old dump!
With bags of rags,
And old tin cans.
And mops and mats,
And pots and pans.
And jacks and tires,
And sacks and wires.
And cots and springs --
from A Big Ball of String
written and illustrated by Marion Holland
Beginner Books/Random House, 1958
I’ve eaten lunch many places including the park with friends, at restaurants (formal and informal) baby showers, wedding showers, backyards, and homes, mine (and others’). But last Friday was a first for me.
The Carbon Limestone Landfill, about a 40 minute drive from my house, was holding their annual open house. A new friend invited me to attend, and lunch was included. She warned me that food would be served on Styrofoam, and plastic, non-recyclable utensils would be on hand. She suggested I bring my own. I did. And I brought my own lunch, too.
Two kinds of sandwiches, a variety of chips in single serving throw-away pouches, and pasta salad was lunch. Donuts and cookies were served up for dessert. As people finished eating, all table service was discarded, but after all, we were at the dump!
Tram rides departed every 90 minutes or so for the tour, but before we climb aboard, here’s a little update on recycling in Mahoning County, Ohio. All properly recycled material stays OUT of the dump, and that’s a very good thing.
paper, not shredded
cardboard cartons, *NOT corrugated
metal cans, empty and rinse
plastic bottles, jugs, and jars: GLASS or PLASTIC, empty and rinse DISCARD caps
*corrugated cardboard can be dropped off at a recycling site
Here's the best information. (Check with your local county government website if you live somewhere other than Mahoning County, Ohio.)
Our county provides curbside recycling. It’s free for residents. More about that in a couple of minutes.
Recycling is picked up using a single-stream system. That means everything in my recycle bin goes into the same garbage-truck hopper. All my stuff and all my neighbors’ stuff is hauled to the recycling center and loaded onto a conveyer belt where it is sorted. First the metal cans are mechanically removed, then human pickers wearing gloves and masks sort through the rest. What can be sold is removed. What is left on the conveyer slips down a chute and is bundled and hauled away to the landfill.
Real people sort through what we put in our recycle bins. Let’s make sure it’s clean and safe, not sharp, like broken glass.
Now for the tram ride and tour of the 340 acre Carbon Limestone Landfill.
Our tour guide is in charge of daily operations and told us everything we wanted to know. Starting at the beginning, we saw flatbeds and large dump trucks from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, and other states along the Eastern Seaboard weighing in. Some had arrived as early as 1:00 a.m. and waited until they could unload between 4:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. From 3:00 p.m. to about 4:30 local trucks enter and unload. All trucks are monitored for radioactive waste. Local and long-haulers are weighed before and after they are emptied. They’re hosed down before they leave the facility. Between 30 and 50 long haulers unload every day. In-state and out-of-state, the landfill handles between five and six TONS of trash/garbage every single day. The fees the long-haulers pay to The Carbon Limestone Landfill in Lowellville, Ohio, pay for our county recycling program.
After the garbage is dumped, it’s covered with layers of dirt and grassed over. As the garbage begins to decompose, it produces methane and other gasses. In a system of 200 methane extraction wells, a pressure vacuum collects the gas. The landfill gas is refined from 50% methane and 50% other gasses to 97% pure methane. It is sent to end-use facilities then distributed. The landfill produces enough electricity to power 15,000 homes per day.
Mining began in the original limestone quarry in the 1960s. By 1992, all the extractable limestone had been removed. The landfill began in the hole left by the quarry after the exposed land was sealed. Before the solid municipal waste (SMW) is dumped, it must be compacted to take up the least amount of space possible. A compactor reduces the SMW to 1,800 lbs/cubic yard.
Like the gas that is piped and processed into usable methane, liquid is also piped out of the landfill. It is also treated until it is pure enough to be sent to a nearby water treatment plant where it is further refined into drinking water.
The remaining liquids have to be solidified before they are buried. This is accomplished by using rejected paper pulp from a West Virginia pulp mill to suck up the extra moisture, like we’re instructed to do with kitty litter before we dispose unused paint.
The best estimates state the site will remain active for about 36 years. For a garbage dump, the site is deceptively clean. Grass grows on the hillside, which is the 3rd highest point in the whole state of Ohio. Permits could be obtained to go higher, but like our guide said, what dump wants to be known as the highest point in the state?
Phase I is closed. Phases II and III are active now, and Phase IV, an additional 8-1/2 acres, is under construction. Each night the new excavation is covered with soil and tarps.
Along the ride, I did not see any wildlife except for a flock of gulls. While it is difficult to tell the difference between gulls and seagulls, gulls are land birds. They can’t perch, so they’re attracted to large, flat areas: parking lots and landfills. They tend to feed, roost, and nest in groups. Landfills provide an attractive food source, so since we’ve built it, here they come. And here they stay.
Guess I wasn’t the only one eating lunch at the landfill!
Be curious! (and recycle with care)