We live in a marvelously convenient age! We can purchase fruits and vegetables regardless of the season. We can replace our television on a moment’s notice. We don’t have to wash dishes after a party – we just throw away all the disposable plates and cups and plastic ware. We roll our dumpster to the curb once a week and never have to think about where our trash is actually going. Convenience comes at a hidden cost. The hidden cost of our throw-away society is the mountain of trash it produces. Most of us are never confronted by that mountain.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to find out where Wichita trash goes. I went on a tour of the Waste Connections transfer station and the Plum Thicket landfill. A friend described the field trip as an “olfactory adventure.” It certainly was! It was also both an uplifting and a depressing experience. It was uplifting to see the passion of the Waste Connections staff for protecting human and environmental health. However, it was depressing to see all of the things that were being thrown away. Some items could have been used by people in need (perhaps donated to Goodwill or the DAV or given away via Craig’s List) while other items could have been recycled.
In Wichita, trash is hauled to the Waste Connections transfer station.
From the transfer station, semis haul the trash to the Plum Thicket landfill in Harper County. It is discouraging to stand atop the 100 foot mountain of trash – especially when so much of it could have been recycled. There should be no cardboard or paper in the landfill, no plastic bags, no cans, nor plastic bottles. Waste assessments in Wichita have shown that almost 25% of our municipal solid waste is composed of paper products. This is easily avoidable since it is convenient to recycle paper in Wichita.
When the landfill is full in a few decades, it will be the highest point in Kansas and a monument to our throw-away society.
Photos taken by Catherine Johnson 5-18-2013