Sea of Garbage

When I was a very small child, we moved house, and I have this weird child-memory of my mother wading in a room filled with junk left behind by the previous tenants. Nothing brings that to mind like a trip to a landfill.

When Noel finished repairing the roof a couple weeks ago (it's holding up admirably, by the way), it was time to make a dump run with discarded old shingles, some scraps of drywall that nobody wanted, and a last can full of junk from the dining room work.

I loaded up the big truck and we were off:

Trash run

(I know, it hardly looks like anything in the back of Bertha, there, doesn't it? But we had four large trash cans, a sizable pile of drywall scraps, and in the end I tossed in a few bags of scraps from the Neumanskys, as well, which is only fair since Bertha is their truck and they let us use her all the time.)

I'd never been to the Davis Street Transfer Station before, but if I had, I would have known it's easily accessible from Alameda by surface streets (I took the freeway which sucked in the big truck). Leading up to it is a trash mall: all kinds of metal and other material recyclers and handlers. In fact, the place where we took our late, unlamented metal awning to be recycled was right up the street.

You pay by weight: as you enter they weigh your loaded vehicle. If you don't know the weight of your truck, you have to give them a $150 CASH deposit, no credit cards or checks, which I had carefully obtained beforehand. Then they weigh you on the way out and give you back the deposit less the cost of your trash.

Here's the guy ahead of me being weighed.

Dump scales

Fortunately for me, I am a small woman, so I got the total GIRL treatment: the guy charged me by volume instead of weight (so no need for that wad of cash I had obtained), then when I drove to the wrong place everybody smiled and pointed me the right way, and helped me back the truck up, and were really nice. I drove around behind the big building and backed in, then dumped off my load of stuff.

As the trucks were lining up and dumping their stuff, a bulldozer was shoving it along the concrete surface into this building:

Where all your trash goes

It's kind of awe-inspiring, how much trash we produce. I watched for a while as load after load of trash came off the garbage trucks and fell from the mouth of that conveyor on the left. That pile at the bottom is over 10 feet tall. In the time it took the bulldozer to shove the pile inside (you can't really see him in there because of the light), the loads from the garbage trucks piled up that high again.

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posted by ayse on 12/15/09

3 Comments

The Berkeley transfer station is similar, but the Davis Street transfer station is much bigger and all the more impressive/depressing. It's (a) amazing how much garbage we as a society produce (b) how bad it all smells, considering how much of it is stuff like old chairs and mattress springs that shouldn't smell at all.

Yeah, a lot of stuff.

Remodeling debris is unavoidable, I guess, but on a day to day basis I am trying more and more to reduce trash. My goal is zero non-recyclable stuff.

We have curbside pickup for plastic/metal (amazingly, even tiny bottles like for pills now often come in the acceptable plastic types, companies are getting their acts together) and paper/cardboard. And I save plastic bags, of which there are an appalling number like bread bags, to take back to the grocery store recycling bins for that.

I get annoyed at companies that persist in using bad packaging (if pressed paper is good enough for frozen dinner product trays for Amy's, why is it not good enough for Lean Cuisine, which uses plastic that will be here forever.) Note to Lean Cuisine, good way to get me to stop buying your products.

So more and more I am cooking from scratch, which really reduces the waste of packaging, since ingredients tend to come in metal, glass, or "paper."

Gene, it's that the stuff that does stink is really, really stinky.

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