Away: A Story of Trash

Male interviewer: When you throw away your trash where does it go?
Woman in yellow shirt: Trash can. Man with tattoos: Uh I don?t know. The garbage?
Woman with sunglasses: Trash can? Man with woman: I?m not sure.
Man with sunglasses: Um you mean like after I throw it in the trash can?
Female interviewer: Yes. Man: Uh I assume a dump. Just a massive kind
of a ? [music]
Male interviewer: So what happens to your garbage once it gets to the landfill?
Woman in green bathing suit: Just sits there? Woman beside man: Probably just sits there.
Man with sunglasses: Uh just builds up and builds up.
Man beside woman: I?m assuming it sits there for a long time.
Woman with sunglasses: I?m not really sure. I always see fire. I don?t nothing good probably
happens to it. Woman in yellow shirt: I have no idea.
Man sitting: They stick it in the dirt and they build a mou- make a mountain out of it.
Interviewer: Great. Man sitting: And eventually they?re gonna
build an apartment complex on top of it. [music]
Male interviewer: How many pounds of garbage do you think that you create a day?
Man in cap: Oh I would say 25, 30 pounds. Man with tattoos: Ten pounds.
Woman and man: [laughing] Twenty-seven. Woman with sunglasses : Ten?
Woman in yellow shirt: Or about three. Second man with sunglasses : Too much. It?s
my answer. Man with sunglasses: I don?t know I it?s usually
like half a bag so whatever that is in pounds. [music]
Male interviewer: Do you know where your local recycling facility is?
Man with tattoos: I have no idea. Woman beside man: No.
Second man with sunglasses: I have no idea. Man with sunglasses: Oh I have no clue there?s
so much stuff in Orlando. I have never looked for it.
Woman in green bathing suit: [laughing] Can we do this again?
[music] Rebecca Zarger: In thinking about some of
the current problems that citizens have in uh getting rid of their trash one of the things
that anthropology can do to bring some insight into that is to look at a a long term or historical
perspective. [clap, music]
Dave Spencer: Trash has always been a problem. Uh there has always been particular problems
with trash uh since man started to collect. [music]
Rebecca: And uh we know that by looking at at past cultures and uh historically how people
have gotten rid of trash that although they had much less to deal with they also had things
that really decomposed quickly on their own. [music]
Marissa Segundo: It seems that ancient times people were a lot more uh resourceful when
it comes to reusing as well. [music]
Dave: The first sanitation group was in Rome. And it consisted of two guys and a cart. And
they would go down the streets since the nearest place to throw your trash was out the window
or the front door then they would go through the streets once a week and pick up your trash.
And then as with most civilizations that we know of Greek, Roman they started to build
upon that trash. Eventually it got so bad they couldn?t cart it away, they couldn?t
clean it up. So what they would do would be tumble the structures down and build upon
it. [music] And these were some of the primary causes for many of the plagues, many of the
diseases that we even have in the world today. Many countries do not have proper sanitation
or waste disposal. Rebecca: And uh I think what you can see is
after the industrial revolution and when goods and services started to be packaged and shipped
really long distances is where you really start to see the the problem with trash generation
coming in. [music]
Dave: But then with the industrial age the concentration of people started to expand.
And to handle the growth population growth they would start to build mounds.
Rebecca: When I first moved to Tampa I came from an area that had uh that had mountains.
And one of the things that was really shocking to me was that essentially the highest point
around that you can see is a landfill. If you go up to one of the the tall buildings
in downtown Tampa you look out on the horizon and this landfill is sort of looming on the
horizon uh near Tampa Bay. Joseph Michalsley: Landfills are obviously
not desirable but they?re inevitable. Um we?re going to need some land area to dump all of
our waste. Uh obviously land is very limited. Eventually we?re going to run out. Uh and
then there?s you also have to consider what is going to happen to that waste that is sitting
there. [motor running] Rebecca: And all the landfills are one way
of dealing with this problem. It?s pretty apparent that we?re gonna need to come up
with some other solutions for the future. [motors]
Bob Hauser: Americans generate a lot of waste that needs to be managed. Today in the state
of Florida about 30 million tons a year of solid waste is generated by the residents.
That compares to about 16 million tons twenty years ago. [truck motor]
Marissa: In the United States today the average person uses about four pounds of trash a day.
And our main problem is is that we?re not thinking about ways to read- to reduce the
amount of waste we create in the first place. [people?s voices]
Rebecca: How that works is that you know we purchase something that?s made very quickly
and cheaply and we can access it you know at the big mega store down down the street
but everything that?s gone in to the production of that that item has in many cases some negative
effects along its chain of production. And it might start somewhere else. It might start
in China it might start in Central America. Um and these products are developed there
using resources. It uses a lot of resources to get to the store where we buy it. [people?s
voices] Joseph: Many people when they throw their
garbage away they see the garbage man or the waste disposal company as like a faceless
entity. And once it?s thrown away it?s out of sight out of mind. Uh that?s simply not
true. [motors running] Rebecca: Making people think about where they
you know when they throw their trash away where does it go? And uh I think one of the
difficult things about this is that in our society we have a very uh sort of complicated
structure that makes the trash disappear to people?s everyday experience. And and looking
at ways to maybe change that I think uh education is a is a good uh place to start. [people?s
voices] Male interviewer: When you throw away your
trash where does it go? Woman in yellow shirt: Trash can.
Interviewer: And from the trash can where does it go after that?
Woman: Uh just dumpster. Interviewer: And then where does it go from
the dumpster? Woman: To the dump.
Jan Tracy: Your garbage doesn?t magically fly away. It goes somewhere. And somewhere
is usually a solid waste operations um where it your it?s either burned and made into electricity
or it is put in a landfill. It might be ground into mulch. But of course the best thing would
be to recycle it. Not even to put it in your trash can. Re- [cars driving] have it recycled
and have it made into a new product. [plastic falling]
Bob: We receive a- at at Bridgeway Acres Landfill our facility?s name we receive about one million
tons of solid waste every year. [cars, trucks on road] On average we receive about 32 to
33 hundred tons per day over the course of the year. [motors, waste moving] At Pinellas
County we have uh 24 cities within the county and these 24 cities all pick up trash either
themselves or stuff and that?s how the trash comes to our facility. [trucks moving]
Jan: When your trash comes to Bridgeway Acres it of course comes in in a vehicle which is
directed to our waste energy plant um to download on our tipping floor or maybe sent over to
our uh our landfill area. And possibly to the mulch area. [tractor]
Kelsi Oswald: What waste enery does is it takes the volume of garbage and reduces it
by roughly nine- ninety percent. So where you would have had a thousand tons of garbage
you taking up a certain amount of space in a landfill the ash from ro- from combustion
only takes up 10 percent of that space. [motors, voices]
Bob: However our waste energy plant now now being about 26, 27 years old we?ve invested
in keeping up the maintenance of the plant, keeping it refurbished updating it uh on that.
And under the present circumstances our landfill here has a a life projected at about 70 to
80 years under current circumstances. [motors] Kelsi: Pinellas County was looking at problems
with solid waste management in the mid-seventies. We wanted to be able to handle the garbage
in Pinellas County. We didn?t want to have to ship garbage out of county to someone else?s
landfill. And they looked at what technology was out there and available and decided to
use waste to energy. The waste to energy plant has four main processes. In the combustion
chamber we burn the garbage at about 1800 degrees. [rushing sound] When we burn the
garbage it heats up water and turns it into steam. The steam drives a turbine generator.
That creates electricity which we then sell to Progress Energy and it ends up going out
and powering homes in Pinellas County and other areas of Progress Energy service area.
For air pollution control we have to carefully control how we burn the garbage to minimize
how much pollution is generated. And then we have different processes to capture that
pollution and pull it out of the gas before it?s it?s released to the atmosphere. And
the final process is ash management where we take the ash and residue generated from
the combustion chambers and we recover ferrous and non-ferrous metals from that ash. [motors]
We try to send everything to the plant for combustion that we possibly can. We don?t
really want to landfill any garbage. There are some wastes that can?t be burned. They
may be restricted by permit or by the size. And those will be sent to the landfill. We
also have to landfill waste at times when the garbage the amount of garbage generated
is more than we have the capacity to burn. And those get diverted to the landfill. [motors]
A lot of people question the environmental impact of waste to energy and there?s people
have a lot of different opinions on that. In fact if you put garbage in a landfill the
amount of emissions that it creates and the potential for pollution is greater in a landfill
than it is in a waste to energy plant. Bob: Once this site is closed I?ll explain
you know uh it?ll be uh very difficult to site another landfill within Pinellas County.
It?s very developed and there?s always opposition to locating new facilities.
Jan: Well we actually did a survey of the trash that was disposed in Pinellas County
and it showed that 76 percent of what people throw away can actually be recycled. [motors]
Joseph: I guess the main issue?s that uh consumers simply aren?t the most conscious about where
their products go after it?s consumed. Jan: The landfills are not the answer. The
answer is use less create less waste. It?s up to each of us as individuals to create
less waste. Um don?t rely on somebody else to do it. We have to do it ourselves.
Joseph: Education is probably the most important aspect of this. Just simply informing citizens
that there are alternatives to simply throwing something away in the garbage. Just letting
them know that there is an impact an environmental impact to throwing stuff away and that just
alternatives exist. [tractor] Bob: I think it?s very very important that
people you understand that the proper ways of disposal the proper ways of recycling how
to do it and how the system works. And what needs to be done. [peoples? voices]
Male interviewer: True or false. We are running out of landfill space.
Woman with man: Absolutely. Man beside her: Definitely.
Jan: True. We?re eventually gonna run out of landfill space. But if the landfills are
designed well and effectively operated um they will last um well into the future.
Female interviewer: True or false. There is no need to sort trash because it?s sorted
after pickup. Man with sunglasses: It?s not sorted so that?s
false. Marissa: False. Trash is not sorted. Once
it?s in your trash can it goes to the waste energy plant or is buried in the landfill.
It is not um sorted. Now if it ends up in your recycling bin it is sorted and is turned
into recycled materials. So you want to make sure that any type of recyclable material
is in your recycling bin or taken to a recycling facility where it can be recycled.
Male interviewer: True or false. Is it okay to throw away biodegradable material because
it will decompose naturally in the earth? Second man with sunglasses: Uh biodegradable
material ? Female interview: – decompose naturally true
or false? Man: I mean I would say true because I trust
the labels but that?s just me trusting the labels I guess. I don?t know.
Rebecca: False. Actually archeologists have done excavations that have looked at uh trash
that has been produced in the past. Uh and they have done what are called Cors and they?ve
found out that there are actually newspapers forty years old that are still readable, hot
dogs that are fifteen years old that are still in landfills. Uh and there?s a a real false
perception out there that when you send things to a landfill that it?s gonna biodegrade.
When in actuality landfills almost act like uh museums where things are preserved.
Female interviewer: True or false. Americans are producing garbage at an increasing rate.
Man sitting: Um that would I would say that?s true.
Marissa: True. Americans do produce garbage at alarming rate. On average Americans produce
four pounds of trash per person every single day. That is an alarming rate and we?ve seen
that double or triple in the past twenty years. Male interviewer: True or false. Recycling
is only beneficial if it reduces landfill use?
Man: False. Woman: True.
Jan: False false. Recycling does um reduce landfill use but that?s not the only reason
to recycle. You also want to recycle because it?s reusing that material so you don?t have
to um gather the raw materials to make a new product.
Female interviewer: True or false. Landfills pollute the environment?
Man in blue top: I would say probably not. I think that they?re doing a pretty good job
within these days. Joseph: True. Uh landfills what little decomposition
of landfill there is there is some emission of gases such as methane. Uh in some cases
the landfills will recapture that and use that to produce energy. But in other cases
it just it?s emitted into the air. Bob: Uh landfills can be uh non-polluting.
But there?s a big effort that goes into assuring that that happens and that sufficient monitoring
goes with it to assure that they?re they?re safe. [seagulls]
Joe Going: We have a lot of checks and balances here on the site uh from the time that you
first enter and and reach our scale house uh till the time that you hit the tipping
area. Uh we have uh spotters that inspect each and every load. And if prohibited or
hazardous materials are observed they?re removed. Uh they?re removed from the waste stream and
properly managed for safe disposal uh to ensure that we are not allowing this material into
the landfill. [motor] Bob: With our facilities our landfill and
our waste energy plant one of the things we want to do uh do is avoid putting potentially
hazardous materials or chemicals through the process. We have here a household electronics
and chemical collection center to manage those waste.
Joe Fernandez: The HECC center is here to collect chemicals and electronics from the
consumers in Pinellas County and to get the electronics and chemical waste out of the
waste stream. They can harm the environment with the hazards that?s in each one of the
items. Chemicals in your home that would can be considered hazardous are like bleach, ammonia,
uh the fertilizers, the um break fluids, automotive fluids and stuff that you would see underneath
your sink at home. [motors] You can bring it here we?re down in St. Pete. Whereas you
can drive through and uh and we?ll assist you with the unloading your vehicle and properly
handling the material and disposing it the correct way. [motors]
Bob: In addition we also conduct mobile collections for these materials under the goal of trying
to keep these out of out of landfills and and other facilities.
Joe: Basically what we do there is we set up shop at a in a parking lot and um have
cars come through. The people stay in their cars and we empty their trunks and process
their chemicals and electronics. [men?s voices] Male driver: I think it?s a great thing uh
a lot of people have stuff like this in their houses and garages and um you know you you
kinda always want to do something with it or take it to the right place. But this makes
it real convenient. Male interviewer: What sort of items are you
dropping off today? Woman driver: Uh florescent light bulbs and
an old cell phone and propane gas for a an old camp stove. And then from here I?m going
up to recycle my trunk?s full of paper and cardboard.
Second woman driver: We need to to dispose of these properly so they don?t get out into
the just general landfill. [tractor] Bob: We have a swap shop where we take materials
that aren?t regulated that still have some useful value to uh other people. We place
them in a shop where our customers can come in and almost go through a little shop and
pick out uh used materials. Karl Maier: Uh the name swap shop almost is
a misnomer. Uh you don?t have to swap anything and I think the benefits of a program like
this are multiple. First of all I understand that it saves the uh county a considerable
amount of money from having to destroy the various things. [tractor] The swap shop has
such a diversity of items that anybody that has any type of home projects going and benefit
everything from cleaning products to paints to fertilizer to lawn products.
Bob: In addition we also have a mulching area where yard waste green waste that is blocked
to our facility is is mulched. Joe G.: We receive approximately seventy thousand
tons of yard waste a year. Haulers and residents that bring yard waste to the Bridgeway Acres
facility are directed to our yard waste processing area. Uh yard waste is classified as uh branches
uh leaves, grass clippings, uh stumps. It?s important that yard waste is recycled rather
than put in a landfill uh because it saves precious air space. Uh it?s a material that?s
managed and can be used uh as an alternative resource for other processes. [motors]
Bob: In addition to our recycling programs a- another another unique way we recycle material
in particularly construction material, old concrete uh that?s in large enough pieces,
old pipe. Uh we have a reef program offshore uh where we we manage a number of reefs.
Chuck Mangio: Uh artificial reef program has been around for about thirty years [water
bubbling]. Pinellas County artificial reef program has so far created forty-two separate
artificial reef sites. [water] Materials used in the artificial reef program are materials
that we would not accept into our landfill just based on the size and quantity. Uh materials
like this would fill up our landfill space very quickly. We are a disposal option. This
would be considered uh recycling of construction materials. Artificial reefs are very beneficial
to the environment in that they provide additional habitat uh to those sea creatures fish, plant
life uh crustaceans. They provide that additional habitat where off the coast of Pinellas County
natural reefs are sporadic and will even come and go with the shifting of sand. In 2009
uh USF did a study uh on the economic impact of artificial reefs in the southeast region
of Florida. That study uh showed that within Pinellas County alone um the artificial reefs
brought in around 27 million dollars in 2009. Bob: In terms of uh the overall solid waste
management picture I think it?s very very important that people you know understand
that the proper ways of disposal the proper ways of recycling how to do it and how the
system works and what needs to be done. Jan: Believe it or not the best way to educate
the public is to start with the children because they are excited they form new habits they?re
not embarrassed to say to their parents hey mom or dad why aren?t we doing this? Why aren?t
we recycling that? Marissa: Some of the small steps I think we
can take as consumers is to really just be educated about the items that we?re purchasing.
Buying recycled material is really the way to close the loop. So looking for that recycling
arrow on the items that you?ve purchased that?s that?s the way to really complete the loop.
[cans falling] Jan: I think that we as as citizens really
need to think about using less. Buying less, sharing, donate. It?s really important that
we don?t over consume and and buy too many items. We need to create less waste because
we don?t have room in the landfills. We don’t have land in other spots for new landfills.
Uh and we?re going to increase in our population. So it?s up to each of us as individuals to
create less than that four and a half pounds per person to per day. [truck]
Marissa: We need to have an integrated solid waste management plan that incorporates landfills,
waste energy plants, recycling, composting and also reducing and reusing and recycling
all together. So integrating all these components together and encouraging kind of these alternative
ways to um to deal with our solid waste is really going to help us in the long run. [cans
falling] Each person needs to be responsible for their waste whether they are six years
old or sixty-six years old. You need to be responsible for the waste that you create.
Joseph: America?s definitely a consumerist country. We tend to focus very much on what
it is we?re buying and not so much on where it goes after we?re done using it. So I think
that if we?re generally more mindful of the environmental impact of what it is we?re buying
what environmental costs there are of manufacturing that transporting that and then disposing
of that once we?re done with it I feel like we can be a more environmentally sustainable
nation. Rebecca: I think Americans do have an obsession
with stuff. And uh if you want to think of it as the anthropology of stuff one of the
things that is really apparent is that the consumption patterns in North America are
really driving a lot of the unsustainable practices and also inequalities and uh environmental
justice around the world. [children?s voices] So I think better understanding what sort
of drives people to make those choices or maybe they don?t even think of them as choices
maybe they just think of them as their desires or the things that they want and see as necessary,
if we have a better understanding of that we might have a possible way of um communicating
with people about the impacts of those choices and thinking about some alternatives. [music]
Man in car: We?ve only got this place uh you know for a limited amount of time around the
earth. It?s our job as keepers to do to do best we can.

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