Hey guys, Easton here from Team Jilly! As you guys know, Jillian has been making the conscious effort to reduce as much waste as possible in their home and in the process of this, she’s also becoming more educated on ways we can all be nicer to the planet, which is absolutely amazing and SO inspiring!! She hasn’t even been on this journey for a full month yet and she’s already taught me so many things I never knew about waste reduction and recycling!
So, to follow along with this, Jill thought it would be a good idea for us to learn more about where all our garbage actually goes and what exactly happens to it once it hits our bins! So, she sent me to do an on-location tour at the Landfill to find all of this out and I’m so excited to share what I learned on my tour of the landfill with you today!!
Scott, who is the Solid Waste Supervisor at the Glenmore Landfill in Kelowna, was so awesome and took us on a full tour of the different spots at the landfill and shared some pretty interesting (and scary) information with us! During the tour, I asked several questions and I’m sharing my full Q&A with you below! Let’s get right into it!
1. What exactly is a landfill and how does it work?
The landfill is where all of our garbage and waste materials go, and it gets buried and covered with soil to keep water out and the smell in! Essentially, it is just a larger place where your garbage is stored, although overtime the landfill will break down the garbage very slowly, it is not built with that purpose and in fact, most of your garbage will never fully decompose!
While I was there it dawned on me that most of the garbage I have consumed my whole life was actually just sitting there in that huge pile!! YIKES! Isn’t that crazy??
2. What can be brought to a landfill?
At the landfill, they only deal with your household garbage and your green bins (grass clippings, leaves, weeds, fruit droppings, plants, etc)! However, at our local landfill, they also have a drop off zone for old clothes that can be donated, and a recycling spot before you enter the landfill, which is awesome!!
3. What is Leachate and how is it controlled?
If water comes into contact with the decomposing solid wastes at the landfills from rainfall or snowfalls, the water can then become contaminated flowing out of the waste material known as the term “leachate”.
They have to control this by installing leachate collection pipes that will collect the contaminated water! If the leachate is not properly controlled in the landfill it may cause severe environmental impacts! We are lucky enough that our landfill is generally producing good quality leachate that then gets sent to the wastewater treatment plant! Some landfills, though, are not so lucky where leachate is a serious issue for them and is polluting our water and soil!
4. What is landfill gas and is it bad for the environment?
Landfill gas is the gas that is produced from the bacteria that breaks down the organic wastes that are in the landfill! This is made up of around 95% of methane and carbon dioxide! Both of these are greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming! This gas can also seriously affect our health! I also learned that the landfill produces enough gas to heat 600 homes a year by itself, this really shocked me!
5. What does “Recoverables” mean?
Recoverbales is basically the same as recyclables but they use this term at the landfill to describe the waste that they can recover to reuse! These are materials such as logs and limbs, clean lumber, grass clippings, leaves, branches, and cart waste which comes out of the green bins! All of this gets ground and either put into the composting area or is reused off-site for fuel at mills.
This was really cool to see! They were actually turning the waste from green bins into the soil that was going to be completely repurposed for use! Kind of like composting but on a WAY larger scale!
6. How often do people bring the wrong waste to the landfill?
All-day, every day!! The most common thing people try to dispose of with their garbage is car batteries and propane tanks! People bringing in the wrong items is one of the biggest problems that they deal with at the landfill! They have to be very careful that the items which are not supposed to be in the landfill do not contaminate the waste because if it does they can no longer use it to be recovered! Maintaining things to recover is part of the biggest challenge in waste management! If the waste does get contaminated, it can damage the equipment when it’s being processed or it can contaminate the entire load and can no longer be used!
It is also very important that the items with harmful chemicals are disposed of properly because if they do contaminate the garbage that will be sitting in the landfill for years and years the chemicals will have harmful impacts on the environment!
This is a very similar comparison to when people are recycling, they either don’t know what can be recycled or they simply don’t care enough, so this is why it is an ongoing issue and can happen so frequently!
7. How much longer will this landfill last, what will happen?
The landfill we visited has about another 75-90 years of life left! When you think about it, it’s not a lot!! That number is quite scary! What even shocked me more was when I asked what will happen when that time comes … and no one has a clue!! The advice that we were told is, the more we push for waste reduction and the more educated people are about their waste consumption the longer the life of the landfill! That is why it is so important people are aware of their waste and the impacts it is having!
While we were on our tour they were also in the middle of construction to clear a new space to start piling the garbage (see picture below)! And get this … the space below will only take about 4 years to build up and fill!! That blew me away!!
8. Has working at a landfill changed your perspective?
I was very interested to know if working at the landfill has changed the way Scott consumed or if he has made any changes since working there! Scott said that what it really comes down to for him is how he consumes! He thinks about the front end as opposed to the back end! What he means by this is, he tries not to have the waste in the first place, rather than worrying about how to get rid of it in the end!
I think this is a great way to look at things because this can make us take a step back and think do I REALLY need this or we can ask ourselves, is there something else I can do that doesn’t create as much waste?! I think this is a very easy way we can make a small change in our day to day lives to reduce our waste!
9. How can YOU help?
Get involved and get educated!! It’s probably very likely that your community has programs that can help you become educated about waste reduction or ways you can help out, for example, zero-waste stores that are nearby, second-hand consignment stores, or simply a “how-to” guide on recycling properly.
If you’re from the Okanagan (or simply just want some more info!) check out the Central Okanagan Waste Reduction Website! It hosts a ton of great information and offers some fantastic programs to help you reduce waste!
After doing this tour I would seriously recommend that everybody visits their community landfill! It was a very eye-opening experience for me, and I learned so much in the short amount of time I was there! It will really make you think differently as a consumer, and I promise it will make you want to be a little nicer to our beautiful planet! It sure has me thinking twice after seeing all that garbage pilled up! Eeekkk!
Well, there you have it guys! I hope you learned a thing or two and can spread the word along! If you have any other facts, things you have learned, or tips on waste reduction I would love to know in the comments below.