Our Landfill – More than Just Trash

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It’s tough to write about something you’ve never seen. When I decided to write about landfills, I realized I’d never been to one. So I arranged to visit Shasta County’s West Central Landfill, which lies about 9 miles west on Clear Creek Road off Highway 273 in Redding.

The drive there took me through scorched land – the scene of the September 2013 Clover Fire that burned more than 8,000 acres near Igo. As devastated as the hills and forests had been, there were encouraging signs of a slow recovery.

When I arrived, my imagination smashed into reality. I had pictured trash everywhere, blowing loose. Clearly the wrong picture.

What I discovered was open land. The landfill encompasses approximately 1,000 acres, including storm-water retention areas throughout the property. These help reduce the amount of water that can directly access the active parts of the landfill and, in turn, minimizes the amount of wastewater it generates.

The landfill even has a view of the Veterans Cemetery in Igo. Staff area always mindful when funerals are going on there.

The first area you see at the landfill has large recycling dumpsters with pneumatic lids that keep the rain off and bears and people out. The county provides recycling and offers dumping, especially for people in the surrounding rural area who don’t want to trek to the Transfer Station on Abernathy Way.

The county accepts the usual types of recycling and more. This includes:

  • refrigerators
  • air conditioners
  • hot water heaters
  • microwaves

They also accept tires, but no more than nine at a time. They offer recycling as a convenience, but on a small scale only. For larger hauls, they send people to North State Recycling or Bulldog Scrap Metal Recycling.

I learned that Shasta County is providing an environmental service via this landfill, not a large-scale recycling facility.

Driving through the property with a staff person, I saw an enormous hillside. This was the landfill’s Phase 1, which had been buttoned up since the early 1990s. They’re currently in the midst of Phase 2.

Regarding Phase 1’s land use, I learned that it’s a big producer of methane. Landfills produce gas for years after they’re closed. At present, the methane is extracted and burned. I was surprised to learn that the air disbursed from methane gas at the landfill is cleaner than what we breathe.

A number of landfills around the country utilize their methane to produce electricity through waste- to-energy sites. I discovered that the City has a partner company lined up to do a small waste-to-energy operation to turn their methane into electricity.

The economy stimulates how much waste there is. Currently the landfill takes in around 400 tons of trash daily. During peak construction periods, it averages 700 tons daily.

The landfill operates as a partnership between the City and County. The city brings in and dumps the trash and the County compactors compact it. At the end of the day, it’s covered with tarps.

Regulations say you need to cover trash with 6 inches of dirt daily. The landfill uses tarps to save air space. This is very important as air space is worth millions of dollars to create.

California regulators, including CalRecycle and the Water Quality Board, come in at least every 18 months to inspect everything, sometimes more often.

Ours is a Class 3 landfill. The municipal waste brought in includes: plastic, paper, food, consumer goods, household items and cardboard such as food containers, boxes. They don’t accept any fluids or hazardous waste.

The spokesperson I met with said he’d like to see more information provided to the public, especially as to options for recycling hazardous waste. That means no batteries,fluorescent tubes or electronic waste.

“There needs to be more on-going information to the public as to resources, what’s recyclable and how,” he said.

They practice recycling at the landfill too. This year the landfill will use recycled concrete for roads.

The projected capacity of Phase 2 takes it up to the year 2032. But, recycling could take it past that.

Recycling is good for the environment and it protects our natural resources. As the list of what’s recyclable keeps increasing, doing our part makes more of a difference. The lesson I learned from my visit to our landfill is this: the more we recycle, we extend the life of our landfills. It’s as simple as that.

To reach Debra Atlas, contact her at debraatlas@gmail.com or via her blog at www.Envirothink.wordpress.com.

A former long-term resident of Redding who loves its natural wonders, journalist and blogger Debra Atlas is reachable www.Eco-hub.com or debraatlas@gmail.com
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8 Responses

  1. Randall R. Smith Randall R. Smith says:

    “We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”… Aldo Leopold

    It is possible to live in greater harmony with our surroundings. We owe it to those who follow to be better stewards and reduce our footprint size. This is not a return to stone age economics, but a thoughtful process of increasing concern and awareness. In the long ago as a child, I can remember taking refillable containers to the store, having them weighed, filled with various commodities, reweighed and paying for the sugar or flour or whatever. Milk was sold in heavy bottles which were reused. The “throw away” society is relatively new and not really as necessary as it seems. Plastic water bottles were unknown. We all had personal containers which we can use use and some do to this day. Thanks for giving insight to the rest of our supply chain story.

  2. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Microsoft just opened a new data center last week in Cheyenne. It uses power generated by a fuel cell that uses waste from the sewage plant. They said it was the first of its kind in the nation.

  3. Avatar A Brady says:

    Some counties in CA have annual Hazardous Household chemical waste day where every one is urged to bring those types of materials to be sorted and recycled properly. But the state grant for such a service discontinued years ago. Some counties, including Siskiyou County do not provide any way to discard such items. I verified this with a county environmental officer earlier this year.

    WHERE do you supposed such things get discarded in real life?

    I asked the person at the Siskiyou County Landfill what he did with his household hazardous wastes? He said he stored them in a shed. Yeah, right. Then where?

    This is a horrible situation. I notified Assemblyman Dahle’s office and CalEPA. I won’t hold my breath.

  4. Avatar Ginny says:

    I take computer “stuff”, microwave, all types of things to this company, who tries to fix items to give to less fortunate, such a computer that will work to a child.

    Restoration Enterprises, 3300 Veda St., Redding, 245.0500

  5. Avatar Trek says:

    Stop burying all this “so called” trash and start recycling it. It will eventually find it’s way into the aquifers in the next 100 years or so. Create more jobs by sorting all the trash and recycling all of it. Yes, it will probably be more expensive than burying but in the end the environment is worth it.

  6. Avatar Barbara Stone says:

    Very interesting article… I am a big believer in recycling, always have been, but I do wish I had less “stuff” in my life that has to be thrown out.

  7. Avatar KarenC says:

    A small irritant for me is when I have called several times to ask if something I have can go into the blue recycle box, I get an answering machine….every single time. When I have something in my hand and want to throw it out, I do not want an answering machine. I have left messages but they were never returned. I recall seeing a statement somewhere that the City said, “If you do not know what to do with the item, call us!” OK, I have tried that and it does not work efficiently. I remember the days when humans answered the phone and we had our small issues solved in the time it now takes to go through all the options of selecting who we want to speak with.