My major goal yesterday was to get all the household hazardous waste to the keeper at our county landfill. I had four boxes of assorted fluids, sprays, stains, bug killers and lawn chemicals. I had a huge container of cooking oil, apparently left over from the time the husband was frying turkeys.
All this stuff has collected for ages under the bench in the garage so correct disposal of so much awful, harmful gunk and sludge and nastiness is crucial. There’s no charge at the landfill either, which makes the process even better.
Our landfill sits on acres to the south of the city in an area that used to be barren – surrounded by forest. The recycling center greets you at the gate, but to reach the area I needed you had to enter the ‘dump’ proper. It was sunny and warm, so the scent was the first real greeting, although memories of childhood visits here tell me the smell used to be much worse.
Some of the things I pondered as I drove in:
Why? Why do we humans do this to our world? I was imagining all the crap that was buried deep within the massive grass-covered hill that loomed before me. This dump has been here for years. I mean I remember visiting here a few times when I was a kid. I was actually amazed that the hill wasn’t more of a mountain.
Stories. Peoples lives, perhaps in rather gross and disgusting form, are contained within those hills. Bits and pieces, unwanted or unneeded remains from hundreds of thousands of lives buried in a mass grave that I was now driving over on conveniently paved roadways.
Confusion. Signage and instruction is lacking. Perhaps the county assumes people make frequent trips to the landfill and know the etiquette and procedures. I didn’t, and ended up driving onto the scale while someone else was occupying it shooting the weight of his yard waste load up from 37 lbs to 81 lbs because I missed the sign telling me to stay off the scale until he was allowed to move on.
Mountain trekking. Odd one I know, but take away the smell, and the knowing of what you are driving on, add some meadow flowers and you could almost believe that you were traversing some gentle switchbacks headed for a picnic in the rolling foothills. Imagination helps with this one.
Landslides. The actual building where garbage is dumped and waste is collected sits in a hollow along the backside of one rather large garbage hill. I’m not the geologist in the family, and I don’t know how much she might know about shifting garbage piles and such, but seeing what towered above me did make me not want to hang around inside that building for very long.
Jobs. Taking a job as a sanitation worker. Do you wake up one day and say to yourself, “I can’t wait to finish school so I can get a job as a garbage handler.” Do little people look fondly at passing sanitation trucks and anticipate the day that they can wear the stiff jeans, oversize gloves and bright yellow vests just like their friendly and fast garbage truck driver? Can you take classes in Garbage 101?
Cleanliness. Do the workers ever really get clean? I mean CLEAN, without carrying leftover smells or gunk under their nails or ground into the creases and crevices of their skin. Do they wash their clothing every night, or do they just wear it all week, then toss it into their own garbage pile and get new? If they do wash it, do they have a separate machine just for that clothing, because who would want to wash anything in a machine after their work clothing touched it.
Health. The gentleman who took my waste products away was older. He wore one of those one piece heavy-duty coverall things, like mechanics often used to wear, but his hands were uncovered, and honestly the coveralls looked as if things had frequently soaked into them. If I was to assume that he had worked at this job for many years, I also have to assume things about his health and what contact with carcinogens and other yuck might be doing to that health. I was only there about five minutes. I had to dump my own cooking oil into a 50-gallon drum. I was offered handi-wipes, which was nice. The plastic bag holding the wipes was cloudy and dusty. The individual wipe packages had their own gunk on them. The gesture was nice, but I’m unsure just how much cleaning those wipes accomplished.
Lunch. I went to the landfill mid-morning. They close from 12-1 for lunch so I assume that the gentleman is the one and only employee that they have in this area. From what I glimpsed of his uncovered hands, I might assume that his pre-lunch routine may only involve a wipe, then a lovely lunch among oil drums and pesticides. Of course that’s only speculation, but I wonder also what I would say, as his friend, if I was invited to his home for dinner…
Finally, Time, or maybe the passage of the same. What happens when some government official finally deems this landfill full? Does that ever happen? Do governments simply allow for the continued paving over and growing of a bigger landfill. Houses surround this one on one side, a gravel quarry and major highway to the west. Will be begin to ship our detritus out-of-state, but to…where? Who wants our crap when they most likely don’t want or have room for their own.
This was about the time that I started pondering the future of this world, and being thankful that I won’t be around to see how much more we can f*** it up, but also being sad and concerned because my grandchildren have inherited, and will continue to pay for, all the harm generations have wrought.
Then I stopped thinking, because frankly, my brain had thought enough for one day.