Every so often, we accumulate enough junk here at the farm to warrant a trip to the local landfill. No matter what we’re hauling, you can guarantee it’s going to be an adventure. I never pass up an opportunity to visit the dump, because the whole operation is both fascinating and awe-inspiring. Seriously!
When it comes to garbage, most folks, I expect, just set it and forget it. The sanitation department picks it up curbside twice a week never to be seen or smelled again by the average consumer. Truckload after truckload is transported to some undisclosed location where it is sifted for recyclables and scrap metal, compacted, run through an industrial chipper-shredder, packed into titanium drums, and shot into space to take its place in the Globa-Lineal Atmospheric Defense System. You know, Operation GLAD.
Well, the dump is not nearly as exciting as all that, but it is an educational experience that everyone should see at least once. Before you politely refuse (See what I did there?) this delightful excursion, please allow me to direct you to a few points of interest:
- You know those weigh stations on the interstates where 18 wheelers get to drive onto giant scales? You get to do that at the dump! They weigh your vehicle when you pull in and again after you’ve done your business. Fees are based on the difference in weight.
- The landfill is bigger than you think. The attendant sends you to offload your junk with a map, some sketchy directions, and a stern warning to follow the signs. No matter which area you’re assigned, it’s somewhere on the far side of the dump so that you develop a keen appreciation for the scope of the place.
- Parts of the drive are actually scenic. Remember the setting for The Teletubbies? You wend your way over and around treeless hills with mysterious vents interspersed amongst them. The grassy knolls rise around you and give the impression of an alien landscape, lush but full of unseen dangers lurking just below the surface.
- When you get to the “active” dumping area, the scene shifts dramatically as you witness the quite literal moving of mountains by machinery that seems almost toy-like. If you’ve ever visited a Chic Fil-A Dwarf House or entered the pediatric dentist’s office through the kiddie door, you’ve got an idea of the giddiness your mind will cook up as your eyes adjust to the shock in scale.
- The entire operation is a marvel of organization. The conceptualization of a landfill may not be as glamorous as, say, the building of the pyramids, but I’ll bet when we become ancient history, these places will be archeological bonanzas.
- You’ll see plenty of wildlife. I’ve never been to the dump without spotting bunnies, field mice, and a wide variety of carrion birds in great numbers. On rare occasions, R.O.U.S. may be seen, but I try to avoid those. The household garbage area, where the trucks take their curbside haul, is both huge and boisterous. Gulls by the thousands busily feed. The smell is breathtaking. Lower your windows for an immersive experience.
The size of our area landfill is so impressive that it is difficult to fathom the amount of household trash processed by the sanitation departments of major metropolitan areas, let alone construction waste and general junk. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say our landfill may boast the highest elevation in town. Granted, we do live just above sea level here in Lower Alabama, but that doesn’t matter. The sheer magnitude is both awesome and sobering at once.
If you haven’t had a chance to cruise through a dump before, it makes a great Saturday morning field trip. Kids find it fascinating, too, and you’ll have a ton of teachable moments. Dealing with garbage is a life skill, you know! The only other place that can come close is the water treatment plant. You truly have to see it to believe it.