Life at the landfill
WOLCOTT – Summer is more than swimming, fishing, boating and sunbathing. If the Avon Rec Center has anything to say about it, learning shouldn’t stop when school lets out.Activities at the rec center summer camp, which runs every week day all summer long for kids aged 5 to 12, include field trips to water parks, aquariums and other rec centers in the state. But Devin Trickel, the camp director, says there are ways to sneak education into the mix.Recently, 13 third through sixth graders traveled to the Eagle County Landfill in Wolcott to see where their garbage ends up.”Most kids don’t know what happens when trash goes out to the curb,” landfill director Ron Rasnic said. “It doesn’t just disappear.”
Rasnic and Don Ivie showed the kids around the landfill, starting at an overlook above the 15-year-old dump. The landfill is in its first of four phases, and Rasnic estimated at least 10 years before they move to the second phase location. After a pit is filled with garbage and crushed by a 100,000 pound machine, it’s covered with a foot of clay and six inches of gravel for drainage, Rasnic said.The second stop of the landfill tour dropped the children on top of the trash heap. They exited the vans with noses plugged and eyes peeled. “This is gross. I don’t like the smell,” Hanna Sabin said. “But it would be a good picture in an I Spy book.” While the girls in the group stood back and pointed out Hershey wrappers, lotion bottles and old shoes, the boys headed for some abandoned toilets and kicked around for discarded Burger King toys. But when the dump trucks started scooping trash for the compactor to crush, the kids seemed entranced by the machines.
On their way to meet with Matt Scherr of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, which runs Eagle County’s recycling program, the kids rode past heaps of recyclables. Recovered refrigerators, lawn mowers, televisions and motors stood in a scrap metal pile on the edge of the landfill waiting to be recycled. “We try to save everything we can,” Ivie said. “But the more recycling you do is less work for us.” Scherr further emphasized the difference recycling can make. He asked the kids what the land could be used for after it was filled with trash. “Houses,” they said.”No, that land won’t be good for much else ever again,” Scherr said. “We’re gonna run out of land, so you need to keep the future for you.”As motivation, Scherr offered a spider.
“Recycling isn’t nearly as cool as what nature does itself,” he said. “Spider webs are made of digested bugs. It’s stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum, and it dissolves back into the environment.”Scherr led the children through the three simple steps: reduce, reuse and recycle. He passed around scraps of carpet and fleece, and the kids couldn’t guess that the fabrics had been milk jugs in a previous life. By the end of the trip, the kids’ noses had adjusted to the smell, but they thought twice before wadding up the trash from their lunch.Brooke Bates can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgVail, Colorado