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Thinking about Waste

The Atlantic has this article about an anthropologist studying landfills, and it’s fairly interesting. Maybe more so to me than others.

I started a new job not too long ago, and the only sucky thing about it is that the building I work in is less than a mile from the Champ Landfill. See, I had thought this was the West Lake Landfill (which has the nuclear waste buried and they don’t know quite where) or the Bridgeton Landfill (even though I’m not technically in Bridgeton - fyi, that landfill has underground fires and they expect eventually the fires to spread to the West Lake Landfill). But nope, the Champ Landfill. It’s massive and extends from an old quarry site for several miles. I can see the West Lake Landfill from the north side of the my building if I am above the 6th floor.


I find myself overly focused on the idea of how much waste I produce. I don’t worry about things like broccoli stems or carrot peels, since those decay. Of course, landfills produce a lot of methane, so I should still worry about these. Oh well. At least they won’t be clogging up a landfill in 30 years like a Styrofoam takeout dish will.

But working somewhere where the bags of trash go affects how I think about my trash. I see the same thing with my coworkers. We all recycle like crazy at work. One coworker mentioned that he didn’t want to send his Mountain Dew bottles to the landfill, since they shouldn’t be punished for doing their job. I’ve never worked somewhere that so many people use lunchboxes and tupperware stuff.

The Atlantic article really hits on that idea. That we have the luxury of basically removing ourselves from caring about trash as soon as the dump truck comes. The anthropologist also mentions how most people think of landfills in the abstract - like a blight upon nature. While this is undoubtedly true, the human impact to the workers and residents nearby is also massive.

We say things at the office like, “yep, dump’s smelling really dumpy today” or “don’t go for a walk, we’re downwind and you can taste it today.” And we don’t even fucking work at the dump! I can’t imagine what it’s like for the staff. Pattonville Fire Department has a fire station right at the foot of it. Which makes sense from a risk-management perspective, but sucks for them. Hollywood Casino Amphitheater is right there across highway 141 from it. Fucking Pattonville high school is about half a mile away, southeast so you know it stinks.


It’s only been there since 1993. Below is a picture from the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater parking lot. I like to walk at lunch, and the breezes off the Missouri River (which is about a mile in the other direction) keep the smell at bay.


The buildings are all office buildings in the industrial complex I work in. The green “hill” to the far right in the foreground is the amphitheatre. All the hills in the background are landfill. There are several more that you can’t see since it’s not an aerial shot.

This isn’t even the big one in St. Louis, which is depressing as fuck.

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