Published: Sep 18, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Sep 18, 2012 12:43 PM
Muriel Williman didnt wear a dress made of trash. And she didnt ask us to call her The Friz.
But when we stepped out of the Orange County van shed been driving, a friend told me, I felt like I was on the Magic School Bus with Ms. Frizzle.
Our van didnt turn into a plastic drink bottle and make its way through the Orange County waste system or better yet, the recycling stream but Williman did take us on a fun and educational tour of the landfill.
I laughed, recalling how the magic began.
It was at the start of our tour when we pulled up alongside a Carrboro garbage truck being weighed at the scalehouse. Williman, the education and outreach coordinator for Orange County Solid Waste Management, explained to the 14 children and adults on the tour that the truck probably was carrying about 10 tons of trash. The county charges a tipping fee of $55 per ton, she explained, and got the kids to do the math of how much citizens were paying to dump just one of many truckloads of trash.
Then she launched into Friz mode and said she had to ditch her regular tour schedule and follow that truck.
This is just too good, she said as she zoomed into action behind the garbage truck, winding our way around the grass- and dirt-covered mountain of trash.
Its like were on a zoo expedition, another friend said.
And there were more laughs
until we reached the top.
What do you see mostly? Williman asked as we watched our garbage truck back up and dump its load onto an already huge mound of trash. Plastic, plastic, plastic.
A plastic construction bucket fell among the bags and bags of plastic-enveloped trash from the elevated truck back, and I thought of the construction and demolition waste or rigid plastics collections where that bucket may have been placed for other use than eternal burial. A child-size plastic trike also stood out. And I thought again of the rigid plastics collection. How many other plastic riding toys and plastic playhouses were already buried in that mound of trash?
Twenty-five percent of the waste in our landfill could be recycled, Williman told us.
Another 25 percent is food, which would return to the earth as soil if more of us composted.
In the landfill, the food will never rot. Every day the landfills newest trash is compacted and covered with dirt to reduce the chance of water and oxygen getting in and breaking down the materials, which would produce methane a potent greenhouse gas that destroys our ozone layer.
Individually, people still can do so much more to divert waste from the landfill. Were still throwing away 3½ pounds of trash per day, Williman said.
Thats per person. Yet it doesnt have to be that way. My family and another family on the tour generate about half a garbage bag of trash per week per family. Were nowhere near the 3½ pounds of trash per person per day, and a lot of it has to do with composting, bringing our own reusable bags to stores and thinking about our planet when we buy.
The constant refrain on the tour was that more people should take advantage of the free tours. It was an eye-opener even to those of us who already are firm believers in producing less trash.
Our landfill is set to close in June. When it does close, well pay to have our trash hauled to Durham to a transfer station and then it will be hauled elsewhere in the state to a landfill near the Uwharrie National Forest.
I hope that when we start shipping our trash to Durham that the sticker shock will have an effect on people, Williman said.
I hope so, too.