This was the image I saw when driving on top of a mountain of trash, the Comox landfill. About 100 feet in the air, (and just as deep), there was an omnipresence of birds. In fact, there was the highest density of eagles I had ever seen. The ground was compacted by a 90,000 pound machine that routinely paved the landfill to utilized every inch of land. There was a foul smell that lurked around the site, lingering in my mouth far after I left which made me feel sick.
Naturally, I was curious. The landfill is a place that I identify with as a cognitive dissonance. Like most people, dumps repulse me to my inner core, and often it is more pleasant to live life in ignorance. However, being a 21st century human being in Canada, producing waste is almost inevitable.
The landfill we visited is scheduled to close next year, and is the byproduct of Comox valley, which serves approximately 60,000 residents. There are three massive ‘garbage mountains’, which have been in service since the 1960’s.
While its not exactly a breath of fresh air, it is refreshing to put into perspective the scale of our waste system and understand the damage caused by these human constructs. On a whole, landfills produce approximately 25% of Canada’s methane emissions (methane is a powerful greenhouse gas).
This particular landfill is home to over 400 bald eagles, that perch on top of the landfill, blindly eating away at garbage (specifically plastic), unknowingly causing their impending deaths. Electric fences surround the perimeter to keep bears, cougars and smaller scavengers out. To combat the influx of so many birds, there were many measures in place to reduce their numbers. One such method removes eagle nests surrounding the dump by logging the habitat.
This led me to ask the question: what can I do about it?
The best solution hands down follows the cliche saying of reducing waste. If we are smart with our individual purchasing power, we can reduce easily reduce our packaging waste. Our individual purchasing power is a powerful tool everyone has in combating our waste crisis.
Of course, this is followed up with reusing. Another point worth mentioning is to avoid single use items. At the landfill, I noticed a staggering amount of single use bags, coffee cup lids, 6 pack rings etc.
Finally, one of the last efforts one can make is to recycle their waste.
In 2004, Canadian households produced 13.4 million tonnes of waste. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of this waste was sent for disposal, according to Statistics Canada’s 2004 Waste Management Survey, while the rest was recycled.
Ninety-three percent of the nation’s households have access to at least one form of recycling program. Of these households, 97% made use of at least one recycling program.
One of the many solutions?
Know your programs available and use them.