My trash bin is a container for everything that I do not want: Plastic wrapping, food containers, socks with holes in them, cat poop, ex-boyfriends. As if it were a cylindrical, 2-foot high vacuum for the undesirables, items are dropped in there with a finality similar to putting out a fire. Gone and forgotten. Yet the true story of our garbage is much more obtrusive than a pile of ashes. When we take out the trash, leaving it on the curb for the garbage man to gather, our garbage journeys on to the landfill. The glorious landfill: a meeting space of bad smells, a mountain range of litter, heaping collections of decades-old Styrofoam. Seemingly, a place nobody would want to visit, despite the fact that one can be found near every major and minor city. Hidden away, like the child we neither want to see nor hear from. Existing for our benefit, but preferably unacknowledged.

Curious to learn about the resting place of my own garbage, we headed out to the landfill of Denton, Texas…

Buried Treasure: A story about garbage in the city of Denton, Texas from Lauren Wardwell on Vimeo.

While the landfill that collects my trash has adopted very innovative methods for recycling and re-purposing items that could easily have been added to the mounds of garbage that are being buried among dirt like a layered cake, not all landfills are environmentally-conscious to this degree. Nevertheless, it is still enlightening and important to know about the systems that are processing your garbage. Take some time to explore your own town’s landfill, and learn about their methods of handling waste. Do they provide recycling? What items are recyclable? Where is your garbage being laid to rest? These are all important questions that are worth finding answers for. They will heighten your awareness and perhaps add an aspect of mindfulness to the ritual of taking out the trash.

This lights the spark for what could become a forest fire.

  • Can I reduce the amount of trash I produce?
  • How is plastic broken down and rebuilt into recycled materials?
  • Is plastic infinitely recyclable?
  • How long does it take for garbage to break down?

All of these questions will be explored in future articles, but for now we aim to simply establish an awareness.