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The Truth behind Where our Trash Goes

23 March 2012 admin 1,907 views No Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

Dr. Jennifer Ross-Viola’s Advanced Placement environmental science classes took a short field trip to the Prima Deshecha Landfill last month to study solid waste management and the cogeneration of electricity. Below, a student summarizes her experience during the field trip.

By Tiffany Cheng, Grade 12

Our recent visit to the Prima Desecha Landfill was a great way to experience everything we learned in the classroom, live. Upon our arrival we were introduced to the greenhouse the facility just built to maximize on the eco-friendliness of the facility by creating a completely naturally generated electronic building. After learning about this greenhouse, we explored the rest of the landfill by van.

The first stop was at the drop off and compaction site of the trash. We were able to see companies bring their unwanted goods to this site and watch compaction dozers roll over the trash to minimize the amount of space the trash utilizes. We learned that compaction tractors cost about $1 million, and last several years before its parts need to be rebuilt. After a day’s work of compacting trash, the workers must cover the trash every night to refrain from any gaseous fumes which are emitted into the air from the decomposing trash, and keep any animals from attacking the trash. There are three different ways which the trash can be covered: soil, mulch or tarp. The soil is one of the most secure ways of covering the trash and uses about six inches of soil; however, this takes up more land at the landfill. Mulch is the most common way of covering the trash because it does not use up as much land and is almost as efficient. Tarp is placed using a machine to roll over the trash and removed the next morning.

Here we learned that one of the biggest problems of the landfill is the lack of ability to control the birds that invade the area. There have been many attempts to control the birds by hiring mechanical falcon flyers which are used to fly away and scare the seagulls, but over time the cost of this does not outweigh the effects. There is currently nothing being done to control the bird problem because no attempt is efficient enough.

After seeing the site where the trash is dropped we saw the basin where all the excess water is brought to be filtered. Here, the water is brought to sit so that the silt separates from the water and drops to the bottom of the basin so that the water which flows into the ocean is that much cleaner. Here, our tour guide explained to us the difference between a municipal solid waste landfill and a hazardous waste landfill. While many may think there is a great difference between how the trash is treated the difference is minimal. The only difference is that hazardous waste landfills have two layers of liner and clay whereas the solid municipal waste landfills only have one layer.

On our way back we saw manmade riparian zones, which were created in an attempt to restore the plants of the landfill because so much of it was wiped away during the creation of the landfill. We also stopped to see several tanks which were used to collect any gases which leaked into the air from the trash.

Altogether, I found this visit to the landfill to be quite eye opening in understanding the truth behind where our trash goes. Being able to see an actual landfill helped me realize that the trash we create has a truly harmful impact on the environment. I had several pre-made assumptions about how landfills would look, but this visit helped me understand the truth of these landfills. I assumed that the landfills would be extremely gross, dirty and unpleasant smelling; however, I found all of these assumptions were wrong. Visiting the Prima Desecha Landfill was a great way to summarize the things we learned in the classroom about controlling our trash.


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