CATCH OF THE DAY — What’s Buried In Your Backyard?

May 2, 2018

By Marla Schmidt

Isn’t it weird that we bury our garbage? What if we had to bury our garbage in our own backyard? Would we be more aware of how much we generated?

Those were some of the questions I asked 200 children ranging from K5 through Grade 4 at Howard Avenue Montessori School last month. Their “eeew” and “aah” responses to what I told them about garbage were music to my ears.

I told them that I saved all the personal garbage that I generated in one week, brought it with me, and that I would show it to them, but first I asked them to guess how much that would be. Their guesses ranged from two to 15 garbage bags. One at a time, I showed them the garbage that I had generated during that week.

I sorted it into the three different types of garbage. I had a 24-ounce mason jar that was less than half full of garbage that would go to the landfill, one small garbage bag half full of glass, cans, and paper that would go to recycling, and a bucket of food scraps that would go into the compost at the Garden District Community Garden. I wanted to demonstrate that due to the consumption choices I make, and because I recycle and compost, I contribute very little to the landfill. Their expressions were priceless.

Next I showed them a large bag of garbage that I had picked up in one hour on the beach (loud gasps)  — more trash than I personally generated all week.

Wisconsinites send more than 4.6 million tons of trash each year to one of several licensed solid waste landfill operations in the state, and you don’t have to drive far from Bay View to find a landfill site. The closest locations are South Milwaukee, Franklin, Muskego, Racine. The largest landfill in the state is Orchard Ridge in Menomonee Falls.

In a December 2017 broadcast on WUWM, Susan Bence interviewed Orchard Ridge landfill manager Steve Meyer. The Menomonee Falls landfill site receives, on average, 400 to 600 truckloads of garbage per day from four counties – Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha, and Milwaukee. Last year, 1.27 million tons of garbage were added to Orchard Ridge alone and it is nearly full. They have plans to expand the landfill by 45 more acres when the current site is full, which they estimate will be in less than 2 years. 

Seeing how the children responded to the harm that trash could do to the environment, as well as to how one can reduce the amount one personally creates, reminded me how important it is for us to teach by example. As adults we must demonstrate what it means to be good stewards of the land.

How much garbage are you burying in your backyard? Even a small reduction of trash by an individual creates a significant reduction in the overall problem.

To learn about how landfills work:

For helpful tips to reduce the amount of trash you generate:

Copyright 2016 by Bay View Compass. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Comment on this Bay View Compass item.