Posts Tagged consumption patterns
12. Where does your garbage go?
Garbage is a word that must be culturally defined in order to be quantified. Garbage within a Western context usually means the unwanted, useless, or outdated. In other words, garbage is composed of products in which we have no consumptive use for. In our society we produce a lot of it and most of it goes unseen and unacknowledged. The waste products of finished goods which we consume veraciously are written off as externalities and go unclaimed as someone’s. Thus, the question of “my” garbage is simply not composed of the things which I consciously consume, but the total products that are used to create anything I use or own. To place this in a more concrete context I am currently drinking coffee out of a paper cup from the Biblio. This coffee cup is made from natural materials that were processed to make a finished product. The waste-products of this process should thus be considered in the answer of where my garbage goes. But, I have no idea where this cup came from. As only one state in the US produces coffee (Hawaii) the waste associated with harvesting and shipping coffee is likely located in either Central or South America. I have no idea what kind of waste it is, or if it was placed in a specific place. But, it is mine.
It is interesting to think and unpack the way in which we view waste. If you were to ask me to quickly explain the garbage created by me drinking a cup of coffee, my immediate thought would be this cup (and of course I would feel the environmental studies major guilt of not bringing my sustainable cup). The cup is a physical object that I can quantify. I have one cup and it goes in the garbage can. This will be emptied and brought to a local landfill. I can follow the process of disposing of a finished product.
I would like to answer this question in it’s entirety and discuss where the waste products from the process of producing a finished good are, but I cannot. As a consumer in a globalized marketplace I have little conception of where this product was made and how. Even if I wanted to discuss the waste by-products of this cup I couldn’t. Thus, in my answering of this question I will look only at the disposal of the finished product.
Finished products such as household wastes from Dickinson College are brought to the Cumberland County Landfill, 21 miles away in Newburg, PA. While Dickinson creates all three types of waste, we probably most readily think of our impact in terms of Municipal Solid Waste (i.e. the coffee cup), though we directly and indirectly contribute to all types of waste.
Professor Howard explained this to me last year when he took our class to the landfill to see the way it was run. Waste is categorized and then weighed by the Scale House at this landfill. Each landfill has a specific capacity and when it is full, waste must be transferred to another facility. Cumberland County Landfill has a limited capacity of about 2,500 tons per day (about 150-160 truckloads per day). As denoted by the chart below, each facility accepts only certain types of waste. According to the EPA,
Solid waste means any garbage or refuse, sludge from a wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or an air pollution control facility and other discarded material, including solid, liquid, semi-solid, or contained gaseous material resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, and agricultural operations, and from community activities. Solid waste does not include solid or dissolved materials in domestic sewage, solid or dissolved materials in irrigation return flows, industrial discharges that are point sources subject to permit under 33 U.S.C. 1342, or source, special nuclear, or by-product material as defined by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (68 Stat. 923).
The EPA further defines municipal solid waste as: durable goods, non-durable goods, containers and packaging, food wastes and yard trimmings, and miscellaneous inorganic wastes.
Construction and Demolition Waste is defined by the EPA as: the waste material produced in the process of construction, renovation, or demolition of structures (both buildings and roads). In addition, it includes the materials generated as a result of natural disasters. Components of C&D debris include materials such as concrete, asphalt, wood, brick, metals, wallboard, and roofing shingles.
Sewage Sludge refers to the solids separated during the treatment of municipal wastewater. The definition includes domestic septage.
REGIONAL DISPOSAL FACILITIES & MATERIAL TYPES
Cumberland County Landfill
135 Vaughn Road
Shippensburg, PA 17257
Scale House: 423-9953
Municipal Solid Waste
Harrisburg Materials Energy & Recycling Recovery Facility
1670 South 19th Street
Harrisburg, PA 17104
Municipal Solid Waste
Boyd E. Diller, Inc. Municipal Waste Transfer Station
6820 Wertzville Road
Enola, PA 17025
Municipal Solid Waste
IESI Blue Ridge Landfill
P.O. Box 399
Scotland, PA 17254
Municipal Solid Waste
Modern Landfill & Recycling
R. D. 9, Box 317, Mt. Pisgah Rd.
York, PA 17402
Municipal Solid Waste
Mountain View Reclamation
9760 Letzburg Road
Greencastle, PA 17225
Municipal Solid Waste
ONYX Lancaster, LLC Milton Grove Construction &
Demolition Landfill & Tire Processing Site
2487 Cloverleaf Road
Elizabethtown, PA 17022
York County Resource Recovery Center
2700 Blackbridge Road
York, PA 17406
Municipal Solid Waste
In addition to questions of daily capacity, the question of long term storage capacity arises. The Hopewell Disposal Area at the county landfill was filled at capacity in the 1970s. The North Newton disposal area has been in use since 2001. It was designed to hold 4 million tons, it now houses about 5 million due to compacting.
There are no hazardous waste landfills in Pennsylvania. Counties run hazardous waste disposal programs, yet many people do not take advantage of it. Although the Cumberland County Landfill runs a radiation monitor over the incoming garbage, there is no doubt that some hazardous material finds itself in the landfill.
The landfill does employ a Methane Gas collection system to capture gas that is released. Additionally, leachate, a liquid that holds dissolved harmful chemicals, filters down through the trash is collected and treated at the landfill facility. Yet some leachate is released into the Conodoguinet Creek. Carlisle is downstream from the Conodoguinet.
Another aspect of waste is food waste from our meals in the Cafeteria. Dining services collects about 900lbs of food waste a day from Campus Dining Services. This waste is transported seven miles away to the Dickinson College Organic Farm, located on 553 Park Drive in nearby Boiling Springs. There the food waste, a source of nitrogen, is mixed in the compost bin with wood chips and leaves, sources of carbon. Worms decompose the waste, turning it into lush, fertile compost. The compost is then used to fertilize crops on the farm, which in turn are dispersed into the Dickinson and Carlisle community through the CSA and served in the Dining Hall, creating a circular system.
The LeTort Spring Run flows through the easter part of the Borough of Carlisle. The LeTort flows into the Conodoguinet Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River. The Susquehanna drains into the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay watershed stretches over 64,000 square miles. A watershed is defined as an area of land that drains into a particular river, lake, bay or other body of water.The watershed is home to over 17 million people. The choices that we as residents of Carlisle make can affect people living as far away as Annapolis, MD.
Currently, there is an alarming phenomenon known as a “dead zones” present in the Bay. Because of unusually high nutrient levels in the water caused by fertilizer run-off, algae blooms grow and create deoxygenized zones that cannot sustain life. With a watershed whose health is at the mercy of 17 million people, the choices made by these people have traumatic effects.
14. Who uses the paper/plastic you recycle from your neighborhood?
Recycled materials (paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum) in the Cumberland County Area are collected at three various drop off sites (North Newton, New Hope, and West Pennsborough Township) and transported to a consolidated are that is managed by the Interstate Waste Services (IWS). This entity is owned by the Cumberland County Landfill. Alongside the consolidation area, recycling trucks weigh the recyclables at the landfill scale. Once the materials are weighed, the trucks unload their contents into open-top walking floor transfer trailers. These trailers then transport the recyclables to Greenstar Recycling in Allentown, PA where the materials are sorted by material type, processed and sold within domestic and global markets.
At the Greenstar Recycling plant, paper, glass, and plastic are finely sorted within each respective group. Glass is sorted into three primary colors, flint, amber, and green. An optical sorter machine is able to detect these colors and non-glass materials such as ceramic and Pyrex so that specific types of glass can be sold to partners. Greenstar also contains a glass manufacturing plant that crushes glass into tiny beads that are mixed with road paint to give it a reflective quality. Greenstar was established in 2007 and since then it has formed economic relations with various businesses and companies. Much of their separated recycled materials are sold to Alcoa; the world’s largest producer of aluminum, Anheuser Bush; an American brewing company, Bio Pappel; Mexican based paper product company, and KW Plastics.
In class we talked about the community organization, Project Share. Along with their initiative to feed 1,000+ families every month, provide parents of newborns and infants with the supplies they need, and prevent unhealthy eating habits and hunger for middle school children on the weekend, the organization also collects recycled cardboard boxes from Dickinson College and compress these boxes and sell them for $145 per ton of corrugated cardboard. The funds from this entrepreneurship are recycled back into the organization, to purchase food and supplies.
15. Point to where the sun sets on the equinox. How about sunrise on the summer solstice?
There is a common misconception that the sun rises due east and sets due west. While this is true most days of the year, there is an exception! The sun actually only rises due east and sets due west two days of the year: the spring and fall equinoxes. The other two noted days on which the rise and setting of the sun is noted are the winter solstice and summer solstices; the winter being the longest day of the year and the summer the shortest. On the summer solstice, the sun rises due northeast and sets due northwest. On this day, the sun rises the furthest due northeast and sets the furthest due northwest, thus explaining why it is the only day of the year with the most daylight.
16. Where is the nearest earthquake fault? When did it last move?
Our first real recognition of an Earthquake is when we feel the ground shake or we are given a warning over the news. But what is going on beneath us that causes this sudden ground tremor? The Earth consists of several layers: the crust, mantle, outer core and inner core. Within these layers of the Earth, there are tectonic plates. When these plate tectonics move, the specific area where the plates move along one another is called the fault line. Thus, when fault lines are active, we have knowledge that plate tectonics are moving and an earthquake is on its way.
The nearest fault zone to Carlisle, PA is the Ramapo Fault. Spanning over a massive 300 kilometers (180 miles). The Ramapo Fault zone affects New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania regions. Often recognized as one of the best faults in the Mid-Atlantic Region, the Ramapo Fault is located in between the Appalachian Mountains and the Piedmont region. Earthquakes in the United States are much more prevalent in California because the west coast contains highly active fault lines that are continuously shifting such as the famous San Andreas Fault. While they are rare in the North Eastern region, Earthquakes can still occur if the fault lines shift. The last time the Ramapo Fault was active is said to be around 200 million years ago. However, a study was conducted in 2008 that showed possibility for a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake to occur (bestsyndication.com). So while earthquakes are a rarity among the east coast, it is still important to be aware!
17. Right here, how deep do you have to drill before you reach water?
According to Pennsylvania’s Geological Survey, fresh groundwater is located within a hundred inches of the ground. Fresh water is abundant in Pennsylvania, which has more miles of streams per square mile of area than most other states. If one were to extract all of the fresh groundwater contained below the surface of Pennsylvania, it would cover the entire state in 8 feet of water! Ultimately everyone depends on groundwater for drinking water. Public water companies use wells and springs to supply almost one million Pennsylvania households with at least part of their water. Almost one million homes use private wells and springs. Half of Pennsylvania’s 12 million residents get at least part of their drinking water directly from groundwater. Nationally, Pennsylvania ranks second for total number of wells, second for number of household wells, and third for number of public-water-supply wells. While each well drilled will have a different depth, all of these wells will be drilled within the freshwater table (100 inches).
To begin answering these questions, our group found it most helpful to start with the Internet and gain some background knowledge on the questions. We were able to use our knowledge from a visit to the Cumberland County Landfill. During the visit, Amber and Jordan received a tour from the director and learned about different types of waste and how it is manged. Amber and Jordan have also talked to Jen Halpin, the Director of the Dickinson College Farm, about composting and more localized and natural approaches to waste management. In addition to Jen, EJ reached out to the Municipal Recycling Consultant of the Greenstar Recycling Company, where Cumberland County sends its recycling materials to be separated.
Overall, this project helped our group gain a better understanding of the components of our bioregion. Since we are all natives of places other than Carlisle, this assignment was helpful in teaching us more about our surrogate home during the academic year. Now that we are all more knowledgeable on fault lines, waste disposal, local watersheds, etc. we have become more aware and conscious of where our waste goes and how we impact our environment on a local level.