Have you ever wondered where your bag of garbage ends up and how it gets there? To be honest, before I got into the field of Waste Management, I never really put a lot of thought into it. You might be surprised how interesting a journey it actually is. So, here’s a story of a day in a life of a garbage bag.
It’s Monday, my waste collection day. I’ve placed everything that’s recyclable in my Blue Boxes, all my compostable material in my GreenCart, and I’ve put what little is left in my one bag of garbage. Bright and early prior to 7 a.m., I walk my garbage bag to the curb. Nestled snugly beside my GreenCart and Blue Box I take pride in how little garbage I’ve placed out. As I’m admiring my handiwork, Halton’s waste collection truck comes by, throws my bag of garbage in the back, and end of story, right? Not so fast! The excitement has just begun!
The day for my lonely garbage bag has only just started! That garbage truck still has around 1,000 more homes to collect garbage from, and will make 2 to 3 trips to the Halton Waste Management Site (HWMS)! That’s a lot of lonely garbage bags. Talk about strong — your neighbourhood garbage collector lifts around 11,000 kg of garbage each day!
Once full, the garbage truck will transport your now crushed (and very claustrophobic) bag of garbage to the HWMS. First stop is the Scalehouse. Every load of garbage must be weighed to track how much garbage has come in and how much space remains in the landfill. I’m feeling even more proud that I’ve only contributed one garbage bag over two weeks. Well done! I give myself a pat on the back. I’ve just helped lengthen the life of Halton Region’s landfill simply by using my Blue Box and GreenCart.
Next it’s off to the landfill tipping face! Weird name I know, but that’s the spot where the garbage truck “tips” or dumps its waste. The garbage truck unloads and my bag of garbage is free once again… Wait… it looks like another large piece of machinery, the compactor, is going to crush, flatten and pulverize my bag of garbage some more.
Because the garbage is crushed and compacted, there’s no air or sunlight inside the landfill. That means things decompose very, very, slowly. If you dug into a closed landfill, you could find a newspaper that is 50 years old and still readable, and hot dogs that are 10 years old and still look like hot dogs. And plastics — like a plastic garbage bag — are going to take hundred or thousands of years to break down.
That’s why it is important to recycle and compost. If we can get these items out of the garbage, there will be fewer materials just sitting in the landfill for thousands of years, and that means our environment will be a better place.