Posted by: zhak39 | April 28, 2008

White Street Landfill

In a recent e-mail exchange with local blogger, social activist and friend Billy the Blogging Poet, the local landfill controversy came up. Billy suggested that I share.

…I also heard that you have been making some positive suggestions for the White Street Landfill. In the 80s the dump that served my parent’s town was deemed full. It was not a landfill. (Unlike Lake Wobegone, I come from a place where people are plain and while tact is practiced, honesty is habitual.) They were not taking their garbage to fill the land. They were taking their crap and dumping it. This was a place where kids told horror stories about three foot rats and condor sized carrion. The weekly trips to the dump horrified mothers who knew their kids (and husbands) were just as likely to come home toting a creaking rocker as with some exotic skin rash. There were acres piled high with stuff, no organization, order or logic. Perhaps that was the appeal. Once we got used to the smell we could walk around never knowing if the next step would take us knee deep in rot or stumbling over a working t.v.  Mr. Miley was the caretaker.  He was always seen from a distance sitting outside of the shack, chin cushioned by a massive tangle of salt and pepper beard.  He was kind of like an Anti Claus, Santa in hiding among cast-offs and litter.  He of course got first dibs. More than once I spotted a sofa or chair teetering on a pile of junk one week find its way to his shack by the next. Mr. Miley could only re-use so much. The town was growing, the dump was at capacity and something needed to be done.

The town had some choices: close the dump and haul the garbage elsewhere or redesign the property to better serve the growing population. This is what they did. They reconfigured the land using dozers and cranes. They sorted stuff out. They replaced the ‘caretaker’s’ shack with a long building. They built up the area to the front where the entrance was and made a one way road for individuals. They made a second entrance, also one way for trucks.

In the building they set-up an office and a receiving area for paper and hazardous waste (paint cans, not nuclear weapons). From check in people could drive up to a platform with a drop off. Below were trailers marked ‘plastic,’ ‘clear glass,’ every kind of recyclable material you can name. The last trailer was for household waste. When these trailers become full, they hook up a tractor and drag them off. The recyclable materials are sold; the actual trash is buried. A similar system is set up for commercially hauled junk.

So why does this work? Because they charge by the bag of actual garbage. There is no charge for recyclables. (At this time my parents generate about 4, maybe 6, bags of actual garbage per year). Because they had a targeted and effective education campaign. Because if you compost and sort your own trash, you can have very close to free garbage disposal. Because mothers don’t have to treat strange skin rashes anymore. Because it does not smell bad and has been effectively screened from the road by natural landscaping.

Were there nay-sayers that felt that people were too stupid to learn or too pig-headed to get with a progressive program? I don’t know because the people I know were practical enough to forge ahead. That seems to be what you are doing with White Street. I think that you are proposing a progressive and workable idea, you are putting it in forward and leaving the whiners behind. I look forward to hearing about your continued success in bringing progress to Greensboro.

With kindness,


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