The Landfill & Community: bad news

Yesterday we drove out to the landfill because it was the once-a-month ‘free dump day’ and, as mentioned previously, we’re cheapskates. We had lots of old nasty carpet to get rid of, since we’ve spent the last week ripping it out of the new house, sanding the floors, and slathering on layer after layer of polyurethane. We borrowed a friend’s pick-up truck because our little 2-door hatchback Focus probably wouldn’t have survived the trip, and we got directions to the dump.

As we got closer, we noticed a line of pick-ups headed in the same direction, all with their beds full of old furniture, garbage, carpet, you-name-its. (I guess other people are cheapskates, too.) We pulled in on the dirt road, stopped to let the worker inspect our goods, and then followed the trail of pick-ups, snaking up and around the hills and gullies, and then waited our turn, about fifth in line, to back down into the landfill and unload.

Having never seen a landfill in person, all I can say is ‘wow.’

I didn’t know whether to be impressed at the sheer size of the mass of garbage and land becoming one, or to be completely overwhelmed with nausea at the immense waste. If you ever need some motivation to simplify your life, a landfill is a good place to go take stock of the amount of garbage we cart around with us as we move from place to place, buy new houses to fill up with more stuff, throw away an item that doesn’t work and buy a new one because it’s cheaper than fixing the old. Wow.

But this is a blog about community, right? Well, here we go: life application, part 1. Since it’s always good to deliver the bad news before the good news (it makes the good news sound even better), that’s where we’re starting–with the bad.

As we sat in line, getting closer and closer to the massive hole in the ground, I noticed that the truck three or four in front of us had a large retro yellow couch in its bed. Do you see that couch? I asked J. Look how cool it is. It’s so retro. Certainly they aren’t going to be throwing that into the dump.

The end of the story is predictable, I know, so I’ll cut to the chase. It did get thrown into the landfill. The mustard yellow couch with the wooden frame and all three cushions. Thrown off the back of the pick-up, crushed by the giant claw machine as it got picked up and torn and tossed deeper down into the ditch. Like a Tyrannosaurus Rex from Jurassic Park.

Now, let me be fair, I was fifty yards away. Maybe this couch was nasty up-close and not appealing at all. Maybe it smelled like cat urine. (Gross, I know, but it’s what first came to mind.) Maybe I wouldn’t have looked twice at it if it were at a yard sale next door.

Or maybe it was in perfectly good condition.

That’s not the point.

The point is that I think our landfills can tell us something about our communities–what we privilege, what we see as disposable, how we think about goods, whether we are good stewards, whether we are creating as God created in the garden.

So, yeah, that’s what I’m wondering: what do our landfills tell us about our communities?

Put in these terms, I think it’s pretty bad news.

…stay tuned for the good news…

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2 comments on “The Landfill & Community: bad news

  1. Cynthia Williams Insko says:

    This reflection reminds me of why I love the movie WALLE 🙂

  2. elizabeth says:

    Me, too. Now if only cockroaches could have a personality in real life…

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