The Citarum River in West Java, Indonesia. Sierra Magazine Nov/Dec 2010
No, this isn’t a photo of a rocky desert, it’s actually a river, the Citarum River, in West Java, Indonesia, which more than 500 factories and millions of people have used as a garbage dump. There aren’t any fish left in the “river”, the people “paddle” through the stew of rubbish hoping to find something worth picking up for resale.
Have you ever visited your local garbage dump?
The average American produces about 4 pounds of trash each day, but besides cleaning our cans and buying plastic liners, we don’t give it another thought.
My friend Edith recently went on a tour of a landfill, “See that hill over there?” said their guide, “That’s the dump.” It’s almost at capacity and when it’s closed in 2013, L.A.’s garbage will be trucked 200 miles to a site in the desert, and the dump will be converted to a park, or a golf course.
The Puente Hills, dump in Whittier (photo below) which takes in a third of L.A. County’s trash, is a huge facility which also recycles materials, and converts waste-water to recycled water.
Do you know the difference between a garbage dump and a landfill? According to Bob Trach, at the United States Department of Energy Ask a Scientist site:
A sanitary landfill in the United States is an engineered containment system where the garbage or refuse is spread in thin layers, each of which is compacted by a bulldozer before the next layer of garbage is spread. When about 10 ft. of refuse has been layed down, it is then covered by a thin layer of clean earth, which is compacted. A garbage dump is basically a huge garbage heap with no human intervention except to dump the garbage in a huge pile. This is a very un-sanitary way of handling household wastes.
Earlier this year I wrote about the Great Pacific Garbage patch, where so many of our discarded plastic bottles end up.