Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Garbage Day

Today is garbage day and we have more than usual at the curb because my parents and eldest daughter have been here this week. This is what six of us have discarded in a week. I have a composter, my husband disposes of our garden trash at a clean fill site, and we recycle everything allowed by our municipality.

At the end of our street is a "park" that was once a landfill site. When we moved here in the mid-1970s, the dump was just closing and many truckloads of dirt were used to cover the rotting garbage. After the ground was covered, large amounts of methane gas were created and a whole block of new homes was evacuated for at least 10 years while pipes and vents were constructed to remove the dangerous gases. For years a large flame burned on the hill as the gas was burned, and a local factory, Best Pipe, fueled its operation with methane from the dump.
The houses are occupied once again, the gas fire is gone, and there are people who do not even know the history of this site.

This large field and hill, locally known as Mount Trashmore, is becoming naturalized and is a great place to take the dog for a run. To give an idea of scale, there is a person walking on the trail in this picture I took from the top of the hill. The hill is a popular spot for tobogganing in the winter.

I have written several posts about this park. This is where the Red Winged Blackbird swamp is located. This week I have seen Kildeers and an American Kestrel, as well as the pair of Red Tailed Hawks who have claimed this territory. The Red Maple featured last Friday was pictured here as well.

Earlier this year we went to the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto. The exhibit on garbage was most interesting. Core samples were taken from old land fill sites in the the area, and surprisingly, even materials like paper, consider to be biodegradable, were completely intact after 50 years. Dated newspapers and letters from the 1950's and 1960's were on display and were completely legible.

This is a picture of one of the core garbage samples. An anaerobic environment is created when the packed trash is buried, and it does not decompose. I shudder to think about what is under the ground of Mount Trashmore. In the cattail swamp, we noticed an area with an oily film on the water, no doubt from the buried "treasure" beneath. When this dump was created, toxic materials and recyclables were not sorted out as we are encouraged to do today.

Each spring, the retreating snow reveals the garbage thrown out on the roadways over the winter by people too lazy and indifferent to use a trash can. I expect that these people would not take the time to recycle and compost garbage either. Our society is now generating large amounts of electronic garbage as computers and accessories are frequently replaced. Garbage is even a bigger problem in third world countries where services are not available for garbage collection.

If I participate in the Bioblitz, officially or unofficially, I will choose an area of this old landfill and examine how this man-made site is being naturalized.


  1. Anonymous8:28 am GMT-4

    Great to see you recycling and I found my biggest amount of trash comes from my paper! Once I started recycling my paper (besides plastic/glass), I was able to really reduce my amount of trash!

  2. At our apartment complex they have paper, glass and aluminum trash cans right beside the dumpster. I am endlessly surprised by how empty they are and how much recyclable material is in the dumpster. It is literally a 10 second job to resort the trash. People are two lazy to care, this society on a whole is only about instant gratification rather then the future.

    I wonder what big old landfills like that can do to the water quality of the water table? It is nice that they seem to have been mostly able to return it to a semi natural state though :)

  3. This is fairly encouraging. I can't imagine 'flame' actually coming off this rather bucolic scene. Amazing!

  4. Mt. Trashmore...hmmmm. Lovely name. For the past 10+ years, I have lived under recycling laws - very strict, I might add. Except for the three years we lived in DE and it was voluntary.

  5. "If I participate in the Bioblitz, officially or unofficially, I will choose an area of this old landfill and examine how this man-made site is being naturalized."

    Great idea! I hope you do enter officially. This would be useful data.

    For some years, I have been watching those areas inside clover-leafs along the freeway. Some of the larger ones have become havens for ducks and geese. I would love to take one of those this year and "Bioblitz" it. Unfortunately, I don't think Laurie can manage to tolerate the smoke from traffic, so if I do, I'll have to go alone.

    Maybe, maybe.

    Otherwise, I'm doing my back yard.

  6. Mon@rch- I am trying to buy less packaged things as well. The amount of paper that comes into our household is astounding!

    Jaspenelle- I am sure that garbage has to affect the quality of the water table in a negative way. It may take years to be noticeable. "Semi-natural" is a good description.

    Cathy- The flame wasn't nearly as bad as the smell of methane that used to blanket the neighbourhood!
    I wonder how they will close off the current city dump?

    Mary- I think strict recycling laws are good. Detractors argue that it costs more to recycle than to bury or incinerate garbage. We really need to try to produce less waste.

    Wanderin'Weeta- I went out tonight for practice and photographed a lot of flora, birds, and eggs in the vernal pools. Identification will be a challenge for me as a novice. If I make some headway, I will sign up. I agree that a cloverleaf greenspace would likely provide an unhealthy dose of exhaust, but it would be an interesting study.
    Thanks for the encouragement.

  7. Wow, that's scary... the core extracted shows just how little does degrade. I've never understood why we can't somehow come up with a way to safely incinerate trash and harness the energy in some efficient way instead of burying it.

  8. -We have an old dump that is now a wildlife conservation area.-That sure makes for a nice transition.

  9. There must be many old landfill sites in North America. I couldn't imagine building houses on them as the foundations may not be stable. Returning them to nature is likely best as long as toxins are not leaching into the environment.

  10. Anonymous7:45 am GMT-4

    Thanks for the great info, I'm always interested in the history of the city.

    Also, you mentioned that you bring your garden waste to a clean fill site. I'd like to do the same, can you tell me where you dump it?


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