Down in the Dump

I’ve spent a little time at the Orange County dump in my day–mostly taking recycling or hazardous waste materials like paint, lawn chemicals and batteries that can’t just go in the trash. Today, I stood on the back of a pickup bed and hurled trash (truly, it was all trash–nothing recyclable or otherwise usable) into a “pit” and watched a bulldozer churn it up and bury it. I left feeling more than a little depressed, realizing there is no way we can continue to consume stuff at the rate that we do and still have land left to live on.

Putting my trash out at the curb and having a sanitation worker pick it up weekly allows me to be fairly removed from our waste and where it goes. I’ve never given a whole lot of thought to the things we pitch every week and what happens to it. We make every attempt to reduce our garbage — we recycle everything that we can curbside and then drive our cardboard to a recycling facility. We also compost so our food waste doesn’t go to the dump. Plus, we live in the woods so we can toss unwanted food over the deck and feel certain that some critter will eat it before dawn. But we still create 2-3 bags of garbage every week…and today I got a glimpse of what happens to it.

I was reading some of the stats on our solid waste department website (just because that’s the kind of nerd that I’ve become), and in 2004-2005 our county buried 56,000+ tons of waste. And that’s a county with the highest recycling rate in the state of North Carolina! There is no way that our current rate of consumption is sustainable.

In addition to feeling down in the dumps at the dump, all day long I smelled something burning and assumed there was a fire somewhere out in the county. Turns out I was smelling fires burning in drought ravaged FL and GA–all the way in North Carolina. You know the world is in trouble when people in FL start wishing for hurricane season to begin!

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