thumbnail of Down In The Dumps - America's Garbage Crisis
Hide -
<v Speaker 1>Down in the Dumps, America's Garbage Crisis Length 57:55 <v Speaker 1>length with offer 58:13. <v Speaker 1>Closed captioning. Stereo audio, channel one, stereo left, Channel <v Speaker 1>two stereo right. Channel 3 timecode produced at Maryland Public Television. <v Narrator>Funding for this program was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency.
<v Narrator>Additional funding was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. <v Scott Simon>[Man singing blues song]
<v Scott Simon>Hello. I'm Scott Simon. <v Scott Simon>Garbage is one of those ugly, unavoidable facts of life. <v Scott Simon>There's life, death, taxes and garbage. <v Scott Simon>Something we just put into a pail and drag out by the curb and forget. <v Scott Simon>But in the last decade, what we throw away and forget has become a crisis in most parts <v Scott Simon>of this country. A crisis that we can no longer ignore. <v Scott Simon>Over the next hour, we're going to look at the garbage crisis in America. <v Scott Simon>That's what it's become. And see how America can find its way out of <v Scott Simon>down in the dumps. <v Scott Simon>We'll look at why the places where we've put most of our garbage landfills are <v Scott Simon>in short supply. <v Speaker 2>[Men chanting] We've been dumped on enough in this part of the county. <v Speaker 2>Share the burden. <v Scott Simon>Why incinerators upset some environmentalists. <v News Reporter>11 protesters were arrested after they chained themselves to the gates of a garbage <v News Reporter>burning plant. <v Scott Simon>Why shipping trash to other states isn't everybody's idea of a gift.
<v Speaker 3>We got nothing but a and trying to make us a dump for the East Coast. <v Scott Simon>What happens when a family comes face to face with all the garbage they make in a year. <v Scott Simon>And we'll look at some of the creative solutions to this process. <v Scott Simon>I think you'll find that garbage is anything but simple. <v Scott Simon>And just how very complex and even amusing our reaction to <v Scott Simon>our own waste is. <v Scott Simon>First, let's define the problem. We're talking about plain ordinary garbage, the <v Scott Simon>kind we throw away at home in stores, restaurants and at the office, what professionals <v Scott Simon>call municipal solid waste. <v Scott Simon>Americans are thought to produce more garbage than anyone else on this planet. <v Scott Simon>Not talking about our movies or television shows either. <v Scott Simon>According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you and I and every other American <v Scott Simon>generate a little over four pounds of trash a day. <v Scott Simon>That works out to 195 million tons of garbage a year. <v Scott Simon>Just how much trash is that?
<v Scott Simon>It's enough to fit a line of 10 ton garbage trucks that would whined around the Earth <v Scott Simon>nearly five times. <v Speaker 4>Why don't we put all that trash in a rocket and shoot it in outer space? <v Scott Simon>The question we often hear, if even in jest we check with NASA <v Scott Simon>and found that if the space shuttles were used to haul garbage into the heavens, heavens <v Scott Simon>forbid it would require nearly 20000 shuttle launches a day <v Scott Simon>every day of the year to get rid of America's trash. <v Scott Simon>Most Americans had little idea that a garbage crisis was looming until <v Scott Simon>1987, when a barge from Long Island, New York, sailed up and down <v Scott Simon>the Atlantic coast, as far as Central America, vainly trying to find someplace <v Scott Simon>to take its trash, but its refuge was refused. <v Speaker 5>It is moving north. And if it continues on a path, I sound like <v Speaker 5>a hurricane advisory, if it continues on that path, it will strike ?inaudible? <v Speaker 5>City. <v Scott Simon>6000 miles and 76 days later, the barge return to Long Island
<v Scott Simon>to dump its odious load. <v Scott Simon>Another story of rubbish refused occurred in the summer of 1992, <v Scott Simon>when two trash trains from New York City shed simmering in the Midwest because <v Scott Simon>of a contract dispute. <v Speaker 6>We want it out of here and the citizens of this area want it of here. <v Scott Simon>Once again, the trash was ordered home to New York. <v Scott Simon>People were beginning to realize the obvious. <v Scott Simon>We never really throw anything away. <v Scott Simon>We simply throw it someplace else. <v Scott Simon>I'm standing on the world's largest garbage dump, Fresh Kills, Staten <v Scott Simon>Island, New York City. By the time this place closes at the end of the century, <v Scott Simon>it will be the highest point along the East Coast. <v Scott Simon>In terms of sheer volume, the amount of trash that's contained here <v Scott Simon>exceeds the size of the largest structure in the world, the Great Wall of China. <v Scott Simon>If you compare fresh kills to one of the great pyramids of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders <v Scott Simon>of the world, there is no comparison.
<v Scott Simon>Fresh Kills is more than 25 times the size of the Great Pyramids. <v Scott Simon>And it's not clear which will last long. <v Scott Simon>New York City is one of the most prodigious producers of garbage in the world. <v Scott Simon>Twenty six thousand tons a day, 6 days a week, 24 hours a day. <v Scott Simon>Huge barges each holding 600 to 700 tons, are loaded up <v Scott Simon>around the city's 5 boroughs. <v Scott Simon>They're towed to the Fresh Kills landfill, unloaded by giant cranes and the trash <v Scott Simon>hauled in earthmovers to its final dumping place. <v Scott Simon>Dumps have always been the unlovely repositories of what we no longer want. <v Scott Simon>Shunned by humans but attracted to rodents, insects, scavenger birds, and <v Scott Simon>at this landfill in upstate New York, bears, they become a sort of tourist <v Scott Simon>attraction. <v Scott Simon>Dumps often leaked their contents into streams into groundwater. <v Scott Simon>In former days and even in some rural areas today, one of life's chores
<v Scott Simon>was taking the garbage to the town dump. <v Scott Simon>Sometimes the dump became an impromptu community center like malls can be today. <v Speaker 7>I remember that favorite thing I used to do with my father. <v Speaker 7>The most male bonding thing we did was go to the dump and we <v Speaker 7>would win back our pickup truck up to it and start throwing stuff down that hill and <v Speaker 7>watch the trailers or the tractors are all over it. <v Speaker 7>And there is something deeply satisfying about that. <v Scott Simon>Many of these old dumps used to burn the garbage daily. <v Scott Simon>It was a quick way to reduce the volume of trash and preserve landfill space. <v Scott Simon>As late as 1968, this dump in Washington, D.C., burned its trash <v Scott Simon>Levinas smelling haze around the Capitol in 1965. <v Scott Simon>Coughing Congressmen passed the Solid Waste Disposal Act, followed a year <v Scott Simon>later by strict amendments to the Clean Air Act. <v Scott Simon>The practice of open burning would soon end and uncovered leaking dumps <v Scott Simon>were regulated. <v Scott Simon>The laws had another unexpected effect. <v Scott Simon>Many communities decided they could not or would not afford the growing expense
<v Scott Simon>and complexity of modern landfills. <v Scott Simon>They closed their dumps and shipped their trash to somebody else's community. <v Scott Simon>70 percent of the 20,000 dumps that existed in 1978 <v Scott Simon>have closed. <v Scott Simon>Today, there are less than 6,000. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that <v Scott Simon>half of those will close by 1995. <v Scott Simon>The remaining space in landfills is calculated in years til they're filled and for <v Scott Simon>much of the country, the clock is running. <v Scott Simon>Today trash is a major municipal <v Scott Simon>concern. The cost of garbage disposal is the number two or three item in many community <v Scott Simon>budgets and sometimes their number one problem. <v Allen Hershkowitz>Last year we spent 30 billion dollars getting rid of garbage. <v Allen Hershkowitz>Morgan Stanley, the prestigious Wall Street investment house, predicts that by 1995 <v Allen Hershkowitz>we'll be spending forty five billion dollars. <v Allen Hershkowitz>Getting rid of our garbage. We're closing day care centers. <v Allen Hershkowitz>We're giving teachers early retirement. We can't finance libraries to be open full time.
<v Allen Hershkowitz>We're closing firehouses in hospitals and we're spending as a society more and more <v Allen Hershkowitz>on garbage. <v Scott Simon>Many communities have turned their trash operations over to private industry. <v Scott Simon>As a consequence, garbage has become big business. <v Scott Simon>Companies like Waste Management Inc. <v Scott Simon>and Browning-Ferris Industries have grown huge as they bought out hundreds of smaller <v Scott Simon>community garbage businesses, raising concerns that the industry is becoming <v Scott Simon>too concentrated. <v William Ruckelhaus>There's nothing wrong with consolidation, per say. <v William Ruckelhaus>If it can be done more efficiently, if it causes more efficiencies to come into the <v William Ruckelhaus>system, then where you have literally thousands of local providers <v William Ruckelhaus>of the same service. We, by the way, we continue to compete in many <v William Ruckelhaus>of the areas of the country with small, either very small <v William Ruckelhaus>regional companies or are somewhat broader, broader based on geography <v William Ruckelhaus>in a geographic sense. Regional companies and they're very good. <v William Ruckelhaus>They're very efficient. They're very tough competitors.
<v Scott Simon>There is money to be made in garbage. <v Scott Simon>Industry insiders say the profits at a large landfill before taxes and corporate overhead <v Scott Simon>typically run about 50 percent or more of revenues. <v Scott Simon>It's also a dirty and a difficult way to try to make money requiring lawyers to <v Scott Simon>oversee regulations scientists and sophisticated technology. <v Scott Simon>Show only the large assets of a major company you can afford. <v Scott Simon>It's a risky business, especially when companies assume unknown future liabilities <v Scott Simon>and they buy old municipal dumps. <v Scott Simon>The growing complexity of the industry demands new skills a student can now <v Scott Simon>get a degree in garbage or waste management, as they prefer to call it. <v Scott Simon>The Rochester Institute of Technology offers a bachelors degree program that incorporates <v Scott Simon>the specialized training a waste management professional will need. <v John Morelli>Garbage has become a very complex and sophisticated business, and <v John Morelli>a lot of us in the garbage business wear suits and ties and not overalls.
<v John Morelli>So things have changed, yes. <v Benjamin Napier>You don't have to work with garbage directly. Marketing is a big thing. <v Benjamin Napier>Public relations is a big thing. And now we have environmental law <v Benjamin Napier>to worry about. You need environmental lawyers, unfortunately, but it's <v Benjamin Napier>so it's a wide open field. <v Scott Simon>The term garbage man seems insufficient for so sophisticated a profession. <v Scott Simon>It may help to understand that in early America, garbage and working in garbage <v Scott Simon>had less of a stigma than today. <v Scott Simon>Americans commonly scoured the dumps for material, as illustrated in this 1859 <v Scott Simon>etching by Winslow Homer. <v Scott Simon>Garbage is frequently just tossed into the streets in those early days. <v Scott Simon>And pigs roam freely, cleaning up in their own distinctive way. <v Scott Simon>But for much of our history, the garbage man has been the butt literally of <v Scott Simon>bad jokes. <v Speaker 8>[Crashing and metal clanking] What happened? You're all canned up. [Man yells]
<v Scott Simon>[Woman singing jingle] But the garbage crisis accumulated more recently, starting shortly <v Scott Simon>after World War Two. More and more, two career families had less time <v Scott Simon>for cooking, cleaning and other household chores. <v Scott Simon>Convenience foods arrived in shimmery new packaging. <v Scott Simon>[Orchestral music playing] <v Speaker 9>Complete dinners which only need heating and are ready to serve. <v Scott Simon>The era of plastic forks and paper plates was upon us all to make cooking, eating <v Scott Simon>and cleaning quick and easy. No muss, no fuss. <v Scott Simon>Of course, what we didn't quite realize then was that a lot of this stuff <v Scott Simon>would come back to haunt us, perhaps to no one's surprise. <v Scott Simon>Garbage has now been enshrined in museums. <v Scott Simon>There are at least two in the United States. <v Scott Simon>This is the Great Wall of guard at the recycling rate near San Jose, California, <v Scott Simon>100 feet long, 20 feet high and 1 foot deep.
<v Scott Simon>This wall represents the amount of garbage America produces in just <v Scott Simon>one second. Tattered toys, broken bicycle's old appliances, discarded <v Scott Simon>packaging, even a half eaten pizza, all of it sterilized and preserved, <v Scott Simon>of course, in this creation, the feel of modern art. <v Scott Simon>Youngsters enjoy the sea and learn what is recyclable, what is not a separation. <v Scott Simon>Systems work into our modern recovery facility. <v Scott Simon>But at the same time, a subtle point is being made. <v Scott Simon>That garbage so long shoved out of sight is now part of our lives. <v Scott Simon>It needs to be seen to be believed and to be understood. <v Scott Simon>3,000 miles away, in the midst of New Jersey's Hackensack Meadowlands. <v Scott Simon>A handsome structure rises from the wetlands, which were once the burial grounds <v Scott Simon>for the garbage of 100 communities. <v Scott Simon>It's an environmental center, but it camouflages a museum that acknowledges its garbage <v Scott Simon>legacy. Here you walk into a cavern of trash that seems
<v Scott Simon>overwhelming and precarious, set to tip like an avalanche. <v Scott Simon>Few aspects of the garbage crisis have generated the anger that shipping <v Scott Simon>trash from one state to another does or from one country to another. <v Scott Simon>These trucks are hauling Canadian trash into the United States, while only <v Scott Simon>about 8 percent of our nation's trash is shipped across state borders. <v Scott Simon>Sometimes it seems to produce 90 percent of the ?anger.?Many parts <v Scott Simon>of the Midwest, with its wide open spaces and lower dumping fees, attracts <v Scott Simon>the trash from the populous eastern states. <v Scott Simon>Indiana is one of those garbage destinations. <v Scott Simon>Early each morning, out-of-state trash trailers lined up outside this landfill near Paru, <v Scott Simon>Indiana, to disgorge hundreds of tons of garbage into what was once <v Scott Simon>a local dump. Neighbors feel they and their rural environment are being exploited. <v Jerry Browning>I really kind of bought my paradise out here. And when I bought this land and I worked
<v Jerry Browning>hard on it, I mean, my wife, both in the family, of course, but then you got that <v Jerry Browning>back there, it was just like a thorn in the side because we nearby said that's <v Jerry Browning>a place out by the dump. Not that's a place out there with the nice pond, you know. <v Scott Simon>In Center Point, Indiana, population <v Scott Simon>250. Residents became enraged several years ago when they saw their <v Scott Simon>small local landfill, which used to receive only two trucks a day, <v Scott Simon>suddenly take on 20 to 30 tractor trailer loads each day. <v Scott Simon>The increased traffic meant more accidents, particularly repugnant when 20 tons of <v Scott Simon>garbage is involved. Residents formed the dump patrol and began monitoring <v Scott Simon>every arriving truck, using videotapes and photographs to push for <v Scott Simon>stricter landfill regulation. <v Scott Simon>Only when it neared capacity did the landfill turn away out-of-state trash. <v Scott Simon>But for how long? <v Terri Moore>Center Point landfill is wanting to expand. They currently have pending an additional <v Terri Moore>hundred and twenty foot heigth increase.
<v Terri Moore>They already can go 40, the extra hundred twenty would put them 40 <v Terri Moore>feet higher than the town's water tower. <v Terri Moore>Basic3ally underneath the area where you see the dozers now, this area has been deep <v Terri Moore>mined at the turn of the century. <v Terri Moore>New state and federal laws don't allow the site of facilities over this type of <v Terri Moore>geology. If the permit is granted, we'll have to see the state. <v Dan Coats>Of export of waste. <v Scott Simon>Indiana Senator Dan Coats has been a vocal opponent of interstate trash commerce <v Scott Simon>just in his last election campaign, he pulled no punches about whom he was talking. <v Dan Coats>Out-of-state to waste. <v Speaker 10>Good morning. I'm from New Jersey. <v Speaker 10>Here's today's garbage. I'll just dump it right here. <v Speaker 11>Sound crazy? That's what states like New Jersey do to us every day. <v Speaker 10>Have a beautiful day. <v Speaker 11>Senator Dan Coats says stop. <v Dan Coats>Their garbage, costs us money, pollutes our land and water, and we barely have enough <v Dan Coats>space for our own garbage. But Washington won't let us keep it out.
<v Speaker 11>The Dan Coats Bill, give Indiana the right to slam the door on out-of-state garbage. <v Dan Coats>If other states solve their problem, not by responsibly building new landfills <v Dan Coats>or dealing with their trash situation, but just simply putting it at a truck or a train, <v Dan Coats>sending it west to the first state, they can dump it in and then tipping it over in the <v Dan Coats>middle of the night or the first thing in the morning. <v Dan Coats>We cannot allow that. That's not the way to solve our waste disposal problem <v Dan Coats>in the United States. <v Frank Lautenberg>The reason that New Jersey is forced to export a lot of its material <v Frank Lautenberg>is because we used to import it and we didn't always like the position of the importer. <v Frank Lautenberg>We, as a matter of fact, had quite a fight with our neighbor to the west, <v Frank Lautenberg>Pennsylvania, and took it to the Supreme Court in order to try and stop the shipment <v Frank Lautenberg>of their municipal waste to our state. <v Frank Lautenberg>We were not successful. The court upheld the constitutionality <v Frank Lautenberg>of free access through transportation, state <v Frank Lautenberg>to state, and that interstate commerce governance and it ought to continue
<v Frank Lautenberg>to govern. <v Evan Bayh>Several of the states have not planned adequately and now find themselves in this <v Evan Bayh>dilemma. So. Right, listening to the suffering of people in our state, very hard for me <v Evan Bayh>to have a whole lot of sympathy for those in other states who say, well, we just can't <v Evan Bayh>help ourselves. We have to keep dumping on you, it's just not right. <v Scott Simon>As trash wars threaten to break out between the states. <v Scott Simon>Congress has been trying to rewrite the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. <v Scott Simon>That's a mouthful better known as rick-route. <v Scott Simon>It's a complex law that would regulate regular garbage, hazardous waste and <v Scott Simon>recycling. But it's provoked scores of special interests and has been controversial. <v Scott Simon>Thus, for a second session in a row, Congress put off action for the future. <v Max Baucus>I'm only slightly disappointed. <v Max Baucus>I'm not too disappointed because it's not the most glamorous issue around. <v Max Baucus>People talk about garbage around here. <v Max Baucus>The eyes kind of glaze over much rather talk about defense budgets or <v Max Baucus>or AIDS or or health care reform. <v Max Baucus>You know, those those are the big, sexy, glamorous issues around here.
<v Max Baucus>The garbage just doesn't quite pack it compared with those. <v Max Baucus>But on the other hand, I think we we put a dent into the consciousness <v Max Baucus>of those who are charged with first responsibility of this issue. <v Scott Simon>This is not the first time the United States government has become deeply interested in <v Scott Simon>its garbage during World War 2. <v Scott Simon>Four Army Privates Horace Schwerin, ?Faelin? <v Scott Simon>Golden, Robert Burkin and Horace Hetzel were asked by Army officials <v Scott Simon>to conduct a study on what soldiers didn't like about military food, that <v Scott Simon>is aside from its taste. <v Scott Simon>Mr. Schwerin was a market researcher in civilian life, and he put together a group of <v Scott Simon>volunteers to observe the men eating in the mess halls. <v Scott Simon>They recorded what the Soldiers ate, didn't eat and threw away. <v Scott Simon>After studying 2.4 Million meals, the privates reported that at <v Scott Simon>least 20 percent of the food was being wasted. <v Scott Simon>They found that most men disliked soups, detested kale and spinach. <v Scott Simon>Eat more if they didn't have to wait in line and eat still more if they were allowed to
<v Scott Simon>smoke in the mess hall. The Army implemented their recommendations, which saved 2 <v Scott Simon>and a half million pounds a day. The 4 privates, were promoted. <v Scott Simon>They had saved taxpayers 110 million wartime dollars a year. <v Scott Simon>But modern day garbage has never before received the kind of scrutiny it's had from <v Scott Simon>Dr. Bill Rathje at the University of Arizona since 1973, <v Scott Simon>when he organized the garbage project. <v Scott Simon>Dr. Rathje was an archeologist, has opened America's landfills <v Scott Simon>and found them to be airtight tombs commemorating our material world. <v Bill Rathje>Most people believe that garbage biodegrades once it gets <v Bill Rathje>buried in the landfill, goes back to the bosom of Mother Nature. <v Bill Rathje>And what we found by digging into 15 landfills across North America is. <v Bill Rathje>That just doesn't happen in most well-run landfills. <v Bill Rathje>Biodegradation is either very slow for food,
<v Bill Rathje>waste and yard waste or virtually nonexistent. <v Bill Rathje>And the end result is after 20 years, we have corn on the cob. <v Bill Rathje>We have a head of lettuce. We have newspapers galore. <v Scott Simon>Dr. Rathje and his students have sorted through tons of garbage from landfills all around <v Scott Simon>the country. Their work, now known as garbology, has already <v Scott Simon>trash some garbage bins. <v Bill Rathje>I think that most people that that I've talked to informally and that we've interviewed <v Bill Rathje>his groups believe that the major culprits for filling up landfills <v Bill Rathje>are Styrofoam, fast food packaging and disposable diapers. <v Bill Rathje>And if you add their estimates up and it's anywhere from 75 to <v Bill Rathje>125 percent of what's in here is those three items. <v Bill Rathje>Well, obviously, it's got to be wrong. <v Bill Rathje>And it is. When you dig this stuff up and when you weigh it and measure it for volume, <v Bill Rathje>Styrofoam is about 0.8 percent.
<v Bill Rathje>In other words, less than 1 percent of what's in here. <v Bill Rathje>Fast food for packaging is less than half of 1 percent of what's <v Bill Rathje>in here. Diapers, anywhere between point eight and one <v Bill Rathje>point two percent. So altogether, it's less than three percent <v Bill Rathje>of what's holding us up today. <v Scott Simon>Dr. Rathje's found that paper actually takes up more space, nearly 50 percent <v Scott Simon>of today's average landfill yard, food scraps and wood take up 13 <v Scott Simon>percent plastics such as milk and soda containers food packaging, polystyrene <v Scott Simon>foam take a 10 percent. <v Scott Simon>Metal items comprise about six percent glass, except up just 1 percent. <v Scott Simon>Miscellaneous construction, debris, tires and textiles take up 20 percent. <v Bill Rathje>Well, I think that future archeologists will look back upon <v Bill Rathje>me as probably the luckiest archeologist in the history of the world, <v Bill Rathje>because I've got so much data. <v Bill Rathje>I mean, it's everywhere and it's so beautifully preserved.
<v Bill Rathje>And you can read everything and you can you know, it's just it's just wonderful. <v Bill Rathje>In terms of future generations, I think archeologists will still call us a golden age <v Bill Rathje>and wonderful. But I think if you look at it from a resource management perspective, <v Bill Rathje>we're gonna be seen as incredibly wasteful. <v Bill Rathje>And we have created so many of these monuments to our conspicuous <v Bill Rathje>consumption, the landfills. <v Scott Simon>Few of us give much thought to just how much trash our family's make in a day, <v Scott Simon>much less a year. So we decided to explore just that with the Lentino family <v Scott Simon>who lived near Baltimore with their three children, they permitted us to set up a camera <v Scott Simon>near the kitchen, garbage can in which they agreed to place all of their trash for <v Scott Simon>a single day.
<v Scott Simon>First, Mr. and Mrs. Lentino, let me thank you for doing this. <v Scott Simon>I can't think of many other families who would do this. I can't think of a family would <v Scott Simon>want to do this. Now, this is this is one day's trash that we've saved. <v Scott Simon>Now, do you mind if we go through this? <v Scott Simon>Sure. [Laughs] This is you recognize this, right? <v Scott Simon>You're probably the ones that don't. First off, he's not with us right now. <v Scott Simon>But either you have a dog or some recipe tips we probably don't want to hear. <v Scott Simon>Let's see. This is, uh, these are taco shells, a box, taco shells. <v Scott Simon>You people like Mexican food? <v Scott Simon>Yeah. Something you brought in from the outside. <v Scott Simon>Yes. One of those one of those plastic sandwich containers this will outlive all of us <v Scott Simon>won't us? <v Mrs. Lentino>Salad. <v Scott Simon>Salad, Ok. <v Scott Simon>Styrofoam looks like it contained meat. <v Scott Simon>Some paper plates. <v Scott Simon>Bill, let me ask let me ask you. <v Scott Simon>We've got a we've got a glass bottle that held apple juice, I guess, <v Scott Simon>and we have a plastic container that held skim milk. <v Scott Simon>Now, both the glass bottle and the skim milk container, they're sort of things that can
<v Scott Simon>be recycled. <v Mr. Lentino>Right. <v Scott Simon>Do you do that? <v Mr. Lentino>A little bit, I'm starting to. <v Scott Simon>With your with your permission, we'd like to show you exactly how much trash <v Scott Simon>a family of five can produce in a year. <v Mr. Lentino>OK. <v Speaker 12>[Laughs] I can smell it from here. I hope this isn't too old. <v Scott Simon>Danielle, look at the mess you've made. [Laughs] [Machine noises]This
<v Scott Simon>is three and a half tons of garbage. <v Scott Simon>Danielle, your reaction please. [Laughs] <v Scott Simon>Does this make you feel any differently about recylcing? <v Mrs. Lentino>Yeah, my stomach is really turning over right here, really makes <v Mrs. Lentino>me take stock of everything I throw away. <v Mrs. Lentino>I'm into convenience quick and easy, get rid of the trash. <v Mrs. Lentino>But obviously, it's not that quick and it's not that easy. <v Scott Simon>If you were wondering. Yes, we did clean up this epic clutter. <v Scott Simon>Well, actually, it was the highly trained sanitation professionals who did. <v Scott Simon>By the way, it cost the county about $150 to bury the Latino's <v Scott Simon>family trash in the local landfill this year. <v Scott Simon>Now, the concept of a landfill sounds simple. You dig a huge hole, you dump in the <v Scott Simon>garbage. Then you cover that. <v Scott Simon>A modern landfill is actually a very sophisticated work of engineering.
<v Scott Simon>This model illustrates the many features that are beneath the surface. <v Scott Simon>In this design, the bottom is lined with a layer of high density polyethylene plastic. <v Scott Simon>It's then covered with compacted clay. <v Scott Simon>Then another layer of plastic running. <v Scott Simon>Between and above those liners is a series of perforated pipe that's designed to collect <v Scott Simon>the leachate. That's the water that's filtered down through the garbage, which is then <v Scott Simon>pumped up to a treatment facility. <v Scott Simon>Wells are drilled around the perimeter of the landfill to monitor any contamination of <v Scott Simon>local groundwater. <v Scott Simon>After each day's garbage is unloaded, compressed and pushed into which place? <v Scott Simon>It's then covered with dirt to reduce odors and deter animals. <v Scott Simon>Pipes are sunk into the trash cells, as they're called, to collect methane gas from the <v Scott Simon>decomposing garbage. The gas is sometimes flared off but many landfills <v Scott Simon>burn it to generate electricity. <v Scott Simon>When the landfill is full and impermeable, clay cap is used to seal the facility <v Scott Simon>and a drainage ditch carries away rainwater. <v Scott Simon>The new land created can then be used in many ways.
<v Scott Simon>This golf course in Illinois, for example, is built over a former landfill <v Scott Simon>and still has an operating landfill beside it. <v Scott Simon>That'll certainly discourage slices. <v Scott Simon>Just outside of Detroit, a former landfill is home to a greenhouse operation where <v Scott Simon>gorment may lettuce grown not in the soil, of course, but hydroponically with <v Scott Simon>nutrient rich water feeding the plants through their roots. <v Scott Simon>The greenhouse does use the landfill produced methane gas to heat the facility. <v Jim Quinn>The reaction usually starts with kind of a smile and <v Jim Quinn>often generates and almost kind of a snicker to some laughter. <v Jim Quinn>They usually think it's great. I mean, it's it's just a positive use of landfill <v Jim Quinn>gas and also the use of the land from the landfill. <v Jim Quinn>Some of the restaurants will service with a complete product line and a good example of <v Jim Quinn>that is the National Press Club. <v Curtis Eargle>I like to tell people that, you know, especially when they have a mouthful of lettuce, I <v Curtis Eargle>say, well, you know, it's grown over garbage. Most of them stop and mid mid bite you know
<v Curtis Eargle>for a second you know? Until I until I tell them that. <v Curtis Eargle>You know, I explain the whole process of how it's grown and how it's sealed. <v Curtis Eargle>And then most people, I think, are happy to hear that land that used to be a landfill or <v Curtis Eargle>whatever is recycled and used for a proper commercial venture now. <v Curtis Eargle>Of course, little of this makes landfills popular neighbors for a town or city. <v Curtis Eargle>But in Riverview, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, the attitude may be different. <v Peter Rotteveel>Garbage ?made the city Riverview,? Believe it or not. <v Scott Simon>Riverview has found it unusual and highly creative way <v Scott Simon>of dealing with its garbage in that of neighboring towns. <v Speaker 13>[Pop jingle playing] Make this your year to feel the thrill. <v Scott Simon>The town is sculpted a mountain of garbage into a ski slope with two chairlifts, <v Scott Simon>a ski lodge, two golf courses and two adjacent housing developments, one <v Scott Simon>with four to five hundred thousand dollar homes. <v Scott Simon>What's it like to live next to a resort that's known by some residents as Mount
<v Scott Simon>Trashmore? <v Speaker 14>Oh, I think it's wonderful. I can't wait until the expansion goes up. <v Speaker 14>And I hope they have a great. They're planning a restaurant up there. <v Speaker 15>A new clubhouse or restaurant or something which will be nice. <v Speaker 16>Right, right, right. And we gold so and we love the golf. <v Speaker 16>In the summer and in the winter, if we wanted to have dinner at the restaurant, let the <v Speaker 16>kids ski. I mean, it's it's it's just great. <v Scott Simon>Riverview's imaginative concept was slightly tarnished when an environmental group sued <v Scott Simon>the town for not adequately treating the landfill leaching. <v Scott Simon>Despite garbage based ski resorts and golf courses, trash is still mostly unpopular. <v Scott Simon>There's that reaction known as NIMBY, not in my backyard. <v Scott Simon>Where the root of the garbage crisis may be. <v Speaker 2>Come on, folks, let's close the landfill and let's have alternatives. <v Speaker 2>There are six alternatives out there, and this one's still in Laurel. <v Speaker 2>Frankie'd be mad at me, but tough tamales. ?Canterra? <v Speaker 2>is still available. Dump it there. <v Speaker 2>Let him have it. We've been dumped on enough in this part of the county. <v Speaker 2>Share the burden.
<v Speaker 2>Share the burden. <v Scott Simon>When her neighbors in Nashville learned that Tanya Tucker had sold an option on property <v Scott Simon>for a landfill, they sang a ballad of anger and disappointment. <v Speaker 17>I look at Tanya as somebody that's made it in the country music business and she owes a <v Speaker 17>lot to her fans. <v Speaker 17>And this is the way she repays us. <v Scott Simon>The landfill developer later backed down to the homeowners opposition <v Scott Simon>in the small village of bliss in western New York, where ski slopes already abound, <v Scott Simon>residents of this economically depressed town invited BFI Browning-Ferris <v Scott Simon>Industries, the second largest garbage company, to explain what a landfill would mean <v Scott Simon>for their economy. It was an anxious step for the small community. <v Speaker 18>[People speaking over each other] People saying they don't want it and you know. <v Speaker 19>And they don't live here. <v Speaker 18>And they don't live here. <v Speaker 19>[Man speaking over speaker] You know what I think is really sad? You know what I think is really <v Speaker 19>sad? <v Speaker 19>The poor person is the one ?inaudible? The poor person. If you listen to that tape- Excuse me. Excuse me. <v Speaker 20>I don't like ?that answer? <v Speaker 19>Excuse me if you listen to that tape <v Scott Simon>The town voted on the landfill and the residents were almost exactly split.
<v Speaker 21>I don't see where it's going to hurt. It's gotta go somewhere. <v Speaker 21>Right now, we're paying to send it God knows where you know? <v Speaker 21>Who knows where it's going? And I myself, I'm all for it. <v Speaker 21>I have been done from the start. <v Speaker 22>This is a nice place to live and I would like to see it stay that way. <v Speaker 22>I can't solve the world's garbage, but I'd like to keep. <v Speaker 22>I'm willing to house my own garbage, but not everybody else's. <v Scott Simon>The proposition lost by a dozen votes. <v Scott Simon>But the potential loss of jobs and income led to a second referendum organized by <v Scott Simon>landfill supporters, but boycotted by opponents. <v Scott Simon>This time the landfill won. The company accepted the vote as legitimate <v Scott Simon>and is now prospecting for a site. <v Scott Simon>While landfills currently accept two thirds of our garbage, about 16 percent <v Scott Simon>is incinerated. That figure is growing. <v Scott Simon>Modern incinerators burn trash at very high temperatures, about 2000 degrees <v Scott Simon>Fahrenheit. This destroys all biological microbes and produces only a <v Scott Simon>little smoke, which is filtered away.
<v Scott Simon>Here's a modern mass burn system. <v Scott Simon>Trash is dumped into a large hopper where it's lifted by a crane and fed into <v Scott Simon>a furnace. In the furnace, a series of moving grates facilitates the burning <v Scott Simon>while allowing ash and noncombustibles such as metal and glass to fall into a vat <v Scott Simon>for later removal. Heat from the furnace turns water into steam, which <v Scott Simon>drives a generator and produces electricity. <v Scott Simon>In the meantime, the smoke from the furnace is cleaned by passing through an <v Scott Simon>electrostatic precipitators or a gas grabber and possibly a bag house, which <v Scott Simon>is a series of bag filters. <v Scott Simon>Nothing appears to come out of the stack at a waste to energy facilities the industry <v Scott Simon>prefers to call them. However, minute amounts of toxins such as dioxins, <v Scott Simon>forams and heavy metals do come out of the stacks of mass burn incinerators. <v Scott Simon>Many environmentalists believe even these small amounts are dangerous. <v Scott Simon>In the spring of 1992, these environmentalist chained themselves to the gates <v Scott Simon>of a garbage burning plant in Florida to protest what they claim are high emissions
<v Scott Simon>of mercury now being found in the Everglades. <v Speaker 23>We're basically tired of watching the Glades choke to <v Speaker 23>death and they are choking to death and the mercury emissions. <v Speaker 24>We tried working through the legislature. <v Speaker 24>We tried appealing to our different industries. <v Speaker 24>Nothing works. And basically, we're gonna do whatever it takes. <v Scott Simon>But industry claims that such charges are exaggerated. <v Scott Simon>These plants meet every government standard and pose no threat. <v Kent Burton>That these facilities, particularly when considered in the context of a risk <v Kent Burton>assessment, are very, very safe. <v Kent Burton>Indeed, when you compare living next to a facility with virtually any <v Kent Burton>other human activity, including flying to Denver on an airplane <v Kent Burton>or driving to work in the morning, it's safer to live to live next <v Kent Burton>to one of these facilities than than participate in many other areas of human <v Kent Burton>activity. <v Paul Connett>Risk assessment is very problematic. <v Paul Connett>It's a theoretical exercise. I see it as a pseudo scientific exercise,
<v Paul Connett>a justification, rationalization for a political decision that has already been made. <v Paul Connett>You want to build an incinerator calling the experts, pay them an enormous amount of <v Paul Connett>money to prove that it's safe. <v Scott Simon>The construction of mass burn incineration plants has slowed in recent years as <v Scott Simon>communities balked at the enormous costs of such facilities, much as several hundred <v Scott Simon>million dollars each, often double that when bond interest payments are included. <v Scott Simon>And it raises the question of whether communities can successfully integrate <v Scott Simon>recycling programs alongside a seemingly insatiable incinerator. <v Kent Burton>The number one recycling community in the United States in 1991 <v Kent Burton>was Newark, New Jersey. They were recognized as such by the EPA. <v Kent Burton>They were recycling 52 percent of their waste and that in the shadows <v Kent Burton>of the 2,250 ton per day waste to energy plant. <v Paul Connett>Newark is a very embarrassing example for the incinerator industry, to, to put <v Paul Connett>forward, because in fact, in Newark they are importing waste from other counties
<v Paul Connett>because they did the recycling. <v Paul Connett>There wasn't enough trash in the county which they were built the incinerator for. <v Paul Connett>And so now they're having to import waste from Bergen County and other counties. <v Paul Connett>Integrated waste management is rather like putting a tiger and a lamb in bed together <v Paul Connett>and expecting tiglets when in fact you get is a bloody pieces <v Paul Connett>of lamb that the tiger devours the lamb. <v Paul Connett>The incinerator devours any really significant effort to <v Paul Connett>recycle and compost and reduce waste. <v Paul Connett>They need to maximize the use of an incinerator. <v Scott Simon>When recycling began to take off with the first Earth Day in 1970, it was <v Scott Simon>perceived as somewhat fadish, but it was not the first time the United States has <v Scott Simon>attempted large scale recycling. <v Scott Simon>In World War Two, scrap drives were organized tires for rubber, metal for ships <v Scott Simon>and planes, even kitchen grease to be used in explosives.
<v Scott Simon>Today, recycling, again, seems to be one practical thing a citizen <v Scott Simon>can personally do about a momentous crisis. <v Scott Simon>Curbside programs are now common around the country though hundreds of volunteer efforts <v Scott Simon>have made recycling a part of American life in the 1990s. <v Scott Simon>[Hip hop song playing]
<v Scott Simon>We have an accumulation of new products here that show some of the creative uses of <v Scott Simon>recycled products. Now this marina deck and this picnic table, for example, <v Scott Simon>are made out of planks that have been made out of old milk jugs and soda bottles and a <v Scott Simon>variety of other plastics. My shoes are sort of Earth Jordans, they're made <v Scott Simon>out of recycled cotton canvas. And some of the rubber in these shoes even comes from old <v Scott Simon>divers wetsuits the rug that I'm standing on that's made out of recycled <v Scott Simon>pop bottles. This jacket that I'm wearing outside and in is also <v Scott Simon>made out of recycled pop bottles. <v Scott Simon>This softball is recyclable after it gets off from all the batting and the throwing, <v Scott Simon>you can send it back to the manufacturer and they'll use this old softened up soft to <v Scott Simon>manufacture new softballs. The U.S. <v Scott Simon>military is now buying about a quarter of a million of these softballs each and every <v Scott Simon>year. Let's look closer at the lumber in that deck. <v Scott Simon>It's a good example of turning trash into cash. <v Scott Simon>Well, a number of manufacturers make this product. If you combine all plastic types, 1
<v Scott Simon>through 7. You know, those little codes at the bottom of a plastic container into their <v Scott Simon>boards like this company in Denton, Maryland. <v Scott Simon>The plastic lumber is impervious to decay. <v Scott Simon>It needs no maintenance. And it lasts, as owner Tom Hitchen says. <v Tom Hitchen>Now we're no longer than stone. <v Scott Simon>The creation of recycled products that people want to buy represents the best way to <v Scott Simon>close the loop is what those arrows in the recycled ?inaudible? <v Scott Simon>Recycled products business is a particularly tough area, and Bill Coon's company in <v Scott Simon>Speckhard, Missouri, has learned that a marketable product is the only way to survive. <v Bill Coon>We bring in our milk jugs. <v Bill Coon>They're baled. We'll grind it, wash it and dry it. <v Bill Coon>And we'll turn it into turn it into sheet goods. <v Bill Coon>Everything from a few thousand's thick, up to 5/8 of an inch in thickness. <v Bill Coon>Our rotational system we make many different items with that. <v Bill Coon>You know, anything from the egg industry is, as feeder's is concerned,
<v Bill Coon>to items such as seats for <v Bill Coon>ultralight aircraft or battery boxes. <v Bill Coon>The markets analysts. <v Bill Coon>It's all to be done. Then there's a home for all this plastic. <v Scott Simon>Construction debris, as we saw earlier, floods many municipal landfills. <v Scott Simon>It doesn't have to be that way as the nonprofit organization, The Loading Dock in <v Scott Simon>Baltimore, Maryland, demonstrates his group accepts castoff building materials <v Scott Simon>from construction companies, manufacturers and even collects materials at area landfills. <v Scott Simon>Materials are sold to nonprofit low income housing groups like Habitat for Humanity. <v Hope Cucina>Answering the environmental crisis at the same time as answering low income housing <v Hope Cucina>is just an incredible win win situation. <v Hope Cucina>There's no way there's nothing negative about it. <v Hope Cucina>One person's trash is another person's treasure.
<v Hope Cucina>And it's it's it's it's circular. <v Hope Cucina>And what the loading dock is doing is is helping to close that gap between the circle. <v Scott Simon>Another growing garbage industry is the MRF, the Materials Recovery Facility. <v Scott Simon>Joe Garbarino has one of the more successful operations in the country. <v Scott Simon>Handed down, in fact, from his grandfather, uncles and father. <v Scott Simon>The recycled goods from garbage long before it was a trend. <v Joe Garbarino>We weren't garbage men or rubbish men in San Francisco. <v Joe Garbarino>We were known as scavengers because we scavenged for the garbage to make that extra <v Joe Garbarino>dollar, a little extra paycheck at the end of the month. <v Joe Garbarino>So we started what we now call recycling scavenging <v Joe Garbarino>in the truck. We'd go house to house, pick up those bundles, put them on our back, pack <v Joe Garbarino>them into the truck, and then sort of in each week, we took different turns sorting the <v Joe Garbarino>waste in the truck. Very successful system. <v Scott Simon>His MRF official that he recycles what would usually be left behind. <v Scott Simon>He crushes construction rubble, for example, to use his matrix in new cement.
<v Scott Simon>He grinds up wood and tree waste to fuel a power plant. <v Scott Simon>Joe Garbarino seems to find a use for every seemingly useless thing. <v Scott Simon>When the Boboli pizza dough company began dumping four tons of old dough in cheese in <v Scott Simon>the local landfill each week. He went out and bought 100 pigs and goats. <v Scott Simon>And now he throws the biggest Pirker pizza party in San Francisco every day. <v Scott Simon>A century after their appearance on the streets of America, this mischievous menagerie <v Scott Simon>has resumed. At least a small role in the garbage crisis. <v Scott Simon>Paper, which is the largest component of our waste stream, has found a home with this <v Scott Simon>company in Baltimore. For nearly 100 years, it's been turning waste paper into <v Scott Simon>cardboard for candy boxes, gift boxes and packing cartons long <v Scott Simon>before recycling was even a word. <v Scott Simon>Turning old newspapers into recycled newsprint is a much more involved and <v Scott Simon>expensive process. Currently, there are about nine debunking plants in the <v Scott Simon>country, with the surge in newspaper collection for recycling in states requiring
<v Scott Simon>publishers to use some recycled content in their editions. <v Scott Simon>A number of new de-inking plants are being built that their enormous costs <v Scott Simon>may mean that the capacity to process old newspapers may lag years <v Scott Simon>behind the supply. <v Scott Simon>Not surprisingly, one of America's top exports is waste paper and cardboard <v Scott Simon>sold to the Far East and this appalls one expert. <v Neil Seldman>The level of those shipments is an indication of how quickly we are becoming <v Neil Seldman>a third world economy. A third world economy has unskilled labor, <v Neil Seldman>has raw material resources and no capital. <v Neil Seldman>And as a result, it uses its labor and its natural resources to ship them <v Neil Seldman>overseas at very low cost and then buys back the finished <v Neil Seldman>product at very high cost. That's exactly what the United States is becoming. <v Scott Simon>Mr. Seldman maintains that there is enormous economic opportunity in garbage for <v Scott Simon>our country and especially our inner cities, just waiting to be exploited.
<v Neil Seldman>Recycling now creates a cavalcade of jobs. <v Neil Seldman>Entry level to be sure, the people who sweep the factory floor and <v Neil Seldman>pick up things and move them around. <v Neil Seldman>But at the same time, it creates jobs for engineers, for manufacturing skills, <v Neil Seldman>for management, for distribution, for bookkeeping, for trucking. <v Neil Seldman>As I say, a whole cavalcade of jobs feeding off of each other. <v Neil Seldman>That is why recycling is critical for the revitalization of our inner cities. <v Neil Seldman>There is no other industry in the country that can bring so many <v Neil Seldman>jobs into every city in the country. <v Scott Simon>But recycling or actually the collection of recyclables has been almost too <v Scott Simon>successful too soon. <v Scott Simon>Many communities began programs before there was a market for recyclable refuse. <v Scott Simon>So today there are warehouses full of newspapers in New Jersey, a mountain of <v Scott Simon>glass in Seattle and piles of plastic in many places around the country. <v Marc Sulam>It's still significantly cheaper to put this material today into a landfill
<v Marc Sulam>than it is to recycle many of these types of materials. <v Marc Sulam>I'm not convinced we do as much recycling as we do more source separation of <v Marc Sulam>the materials. True recycling is to separate materials, have it be reused, <v Marc Sulam>and then go back out buy the materials again. <v Marc Sulam>People say that they're willing to pay the incremental 5 percent, but when push comes to <v Marc Sulam>shove, less people are willing to spend that incremental <v Marc Sulam>amount of money when it comes to spending money. <v Scott Simon>We don't want to leave recycling without looking at one of its more distinctive forms. <v Scott Simon>Garbage as art. Well, one San Francisco artist creates collages <v Scott Simon>from the flotsam and refuse of his own life. <v Ted Van Cleave>I think art's a good medium to convey conservation. <v Ted Van Cleave>And with this particular piece here, I put on some objects which <v Ted Van Cleave>had a lot of meaning to me out of personal meaning. This is a part my mother gave me when <v Ted Van Cleave>I left home about 20 years ago. And this is a fishing lure I inherited from my <v Ted Van Cleave>grandfather and my softball pants here.
<v Ted Van Cleave>And with that, I added some household debris. <v Ted Van Cleave>We have an old calculator that broke old Byron bottle and other things. <v Ted Van Cleave>I do traditional work, but I chose this because we started recycling in San Francisco <v Ted Van Cleave>about four years ago, and it really brought to mind to me how much recycling <v Ted Van Cleave>can save. And I thought that was a message that needed to get out. <v Ted Van Cleave>And so I can convey that with my art. <v Scott Simon>The work of Mierle Ukeles has fascinated New York City for more than a decade, where <v Scott Simon>she's been the official artist in residence at the Department of Sanitation for <v Scott Simon>artistic object is simple to persuade society that the garbage crisis <v Scott Simon>will end only when people learn to view garbage in a new way. <v Mierle Ukeles>When people say I'm finished with this object, <v Mierle Ukeles>when they call it garbage, it means they're stripping the meaning of value <v Mierle Ukeles>out of the material. We have to do radical shifting of our whole <v Mierle Ukeles>way of thinking. Artists play a role in in creating
<v Mierle Ukeles>possibilities for people to sort of like open up their <v Mierle Ukeles>brains. We've all got to become artists. <v Scott Simon>We've seen our past philosophy on garbage has been to bury it. <v Scott Simon>And if you run out of room to burn it. <v Scott Simon>Many argue that our strategy for the future should be to reduce the waste first, <v Scott Simon>recycle what we can, burn only what we should, and then bury <v Scott Simon>what we must. But what goes into each category? <v Scott Simon>Reducing the sheer amount of garbage certainly makes sense. <v Scott Simon>Take product packaging, for example, which comprises about a third of our waste. <v Scott Simon>Manufacturers have been spurred into action by consumers. <v Speaker 25>These days, the less trash, the better. <v Speaker 25>Right, Cathy? <v Speaker 26>Yeah. <v Speaker 25>That's one reason we love the downy refill. <v Speaker 25>It's a snap. I just poured into my empty bottle. <v Speaker 25>Add water. <v Speaker 26>Let me do it. <v Speaker 25>And that's all we throw away.
<v Speaker 25>And I still get the fluffiest softness. <v Speaker 27>The Downy Refill, more softness, less trash. <v Speaker 26>Every little bit helps. <v Tom Rattray>It was a runaway success. <v Tom Rattray>It took us, frankly, by surprise a lot of people. <v Tom Rattray>This is big in Europe, much more environmentally oriented. <v Scott Simon>Why would you be surprised by this? <v Tom Rattray>Because of the American consumers reluctance to change habits. <v Tom Rattray>We have never seen so broad or rapid a change in consumer <v Tom Rattray>values and tastes as in the environmental area. <v Scott Simon>Now, a growing number of reduced and recycled packaged products are coming onto the <v Scott Simon>market as companies are actually competing to be green. <v Scott Simon>But some experts feel that since manufacturers create much of that waste problem by <v Scott Simon>over packaging for sales appeal. <v Scott Simon>That companies should be required to take back some of those throwaway containers <v Scott Simon>and wrappers and recycle. <v Allen Hershkowitz>They have to manage the hazardous wastes. <v Allen Hershkowitz>They have to manage their waterways. They have to manage their air emissions.
<v Allen Hershkowitz>Why don't they have to manage these wastes as well? <v Scott Simon>There is one American company that is clearly more devoted than most to reducing <v Scott Simon>its own clutter. That's McDonald's. <v Scott Simon>The company approached the Environmental Defense Fund and asked for their advice. <v Scott Simon>Together, they created a task force which came up with more than 40 ways to reduce <v Scott Simon>waste at its 8500 restaurants. <v Scott Simon>The company eliminated its polystyrene hamburger container, which had become a symbol for <v Scott Simon>many. Environmentalists have senseless packaging favorite paper wrappers. <v Scott Simon>It eliminated syrup containers by installing stainless steel tanks and having tank trucks <v Scott Simon>delivered the syrup. Roof shingles at new restaurants are now made of recycled computer <v Scott Simon>cases. Rubber play surfaces are developed from old tires and tables. <v Scott Simon>Benches and chairs are also recycled plastic. <v Robert L. Langert>18 million people a day go to McDonald's in the United States. <v Robert L. Langert>They care about the environment. McDonald's cares about the environment. <v Robert L. Langert>It's good business to have solid environmental practices.
<v Robert L. Langert>So I think the trends there and I think the trend is more and more towards <v Robert L. Langert>what McDonald's is doing towards sound practical programs <v Robert L. Langert>that make sense for their business. <v Scott Simon>Finally, there is one unusual strategy in the garbage crisis that we must take a look at. <v Scott Simon>Solid waste composting now. <v Scott Simon>Composting, of course, is the controlled decaying of organic materials into fertilizer <v Scott Simon>for soil. It's a process that gardeners have used for centuries. <v Scott Simon>But this company in Florida uses garbage as its source for organics and it <v Scott Simon>processes 600 tons of trash a day, carefully separating the <v Scott Simon>inorganic from the organic employees sought out hazardous materials in <v Scott Simon>the garbage. As it arrives, machines rip open garbage bags, remove <v Scott Simon>plastics, metals and glass and still more workers remove valuable recyclables. <v Scott Simon>It's an expensive and involved process, but critical. <v Scott Simon>If the compost product is to be pure enough to play some Florida food crops, where <v Scott Simon>it's now being tested.
<v Joe Blankenship>We b- view the market in South Florida as being a very <v Joe Blankenship>substantial one. <v Joe Blankenship>This truly is a recycling of the garbage is <v Joe Blankenship>a beneficial product. <v Scott Simon>But environmentalists are uncomfortable about using municipal solid waste for compost. <v Richard Denison>Putting materials that could be recycled into a campus facility <v Richard Denison>sacrifices the real value of those materials. <v Richard Denison>Instead of being using paper to make paper again, using paper <v Richard Denison>to make a very low grade soil amendment is a waste of the <v Richard Denison>resources that went into that paper in the first place. <v Scott Simon>Regardless of the strategies we choose, there is one aspect of the garbage crisis <v Scott Simon>that's becoming quite apparent. <v Scott Simon>Our trash is going to cost us more money. <v Scott Simon>Seattle, Washington. Faced with a garbage crisis in the mid 1980s, try to garbage <v Scott Simon>experiment that was watched by the nation. <v Scott Simon>He devised a system in which the residents garbage bills were tied to the volume
<v Scott Simon>of waste they created. <v Ray Hoffman>The more garbage you put out the more you pay. <v Ray Hoffman>And if you put out a lot, you pay a whole lot of money. <v Ray Hoffman>And the result has been that around 90 percent of the city's single family population <v Ray Hoffman>puts out 30 gallons of trash or less a week, which is unprecedented in this <v Ray Hoffman>country. <v Scott Simon>Seattle citizens now purchase different sized waste pales, the larger the can the greater <v Scott Simon>the fee. Free curbside recycling encourages residents to short bottles, <v Scott Simon>paper and other trash to reduce the cost of their garbage. <v Scott Simon>The concept takes a step further in Farmington, Minnesota. <v Scott Simon>It's something nicknamed garbage by the pound. <v Scott Simon>Here, one's garbage bill is calculated by its weight. <v Scott Simon>Much like any other utility. <v Robert Williamson>This is the way the real world is. I mean, you go to the gas station and you pay for a <v Robert Williamson>gallon. You go to the meat market and you pay per pound. <v Robert Williamson>Turn on your electric light. You're paying about a kilowatt hour. <v Robert Williamson>So why not garbage by the pound? <v Scott Simon>This is high tech trash.
<v Scott Simon>An onboard computer receives a radio signal from a garbage can transponder identifies <v Scott Simon>its owner, weighs it up and bills the household. <v Scott Simon>But maybe the eventual solution to the garbage crisis is right in front of us. <v Scott Simon>Children who have grown up with reducing and recycling trash has been natural <v Scott Simon>and necessary. There is an eagerness among them to learn the ABC's <v Scott Simon>of waste. It can even be fun.
<v Scott Simon>[Sesame Street song playing] You guys do a lot of recycling <v Scott Simon>in this school? <v Speaker 28>We recycle paper, we recycle. <v Speaker 29>Cans. <v Speaker 28>stuff in the, yeah we recycle soda cans. We recycle lunch trays, the sporks. <v Speaker 30>We take the stacks of newspaper and as you see the truck come by in <v Speaker 30>the morning, they usually have different sections to throw in the glass and <v Speaker 30>the newspapers in different places so it's mostly already sorted. <v Scott Simon>Now, do you ever have to do you ever have to remind your parents that <v Scott Simon>they should do that [Clasroom responds] When you guys go shopping do you think about <v Scott Simon>buying products that are recyclable or that can easily be recycled? <v Speaker 31>Some people bring their own like bag that's made out of yarn or something and they <v Speaker 31>carry their groceries in that. <v Speaker 32>Since we're like just 10 and 12 years old, we didn't have too much <v Speaker 32>time to make the mess. So why don't parents get as aware as we are about their mess?
<v Scott Simon>It may be our youngsters who most pointedly remind us of something as basic as pick <v Scott Simon>up after yourself. Nobody likes trash. <v Scott Simon>That's why it's garbage. It's literally refuse. <v Scott Simon>What we don't want. What we can't stand. <v Scott Simon>What we want to get rid of. <v Scott Simon>But our garbage crisis may maybe a rare example of that problem, that's overwhelming <v Scott Simon>but not impossible. The solution is literally in our hands. <v Scott Simon>We've simply run out of places in which to hide the problem. <v Scott Simon>I'm Scott Simon. Thank you for watching. <v Scott Simon>Good night. [Hip hop song playing]
Down In The Dumps - America's Garbage Crisis
Producing Organization
Maryland Public Television
Contributing Organization
Maryland Public Television (Owings Mills, Maryland)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/394-40ksn908).
Program Description
"""'DOWN IN THE DUMPS: AMERICA'S GARBAGE CRISIS' takes a serious, but occasionally lively, look at one of the nation's more mundane crisis: garbage! As landfills close rapidly due to tough, new environmental regulations and capacity problems, Americans are facing the dilemma of what to do with the nearly 200 million tons of trash they make annually. ""The program deals with the 'Nimby' phenomenon--'not in my back yard' --that thwarts the siting of new landfills and incinerators. Incineration of trash has its own controversy, and we explore it in detail. The show also looks at the anger that interstate trash shipments cause throughout the country. ""But the program has its lighter moments: we visit two trash museums found in the nation. And we talk to a nationally recognized archeologist who has a sub-specialty in trash! ""This program merits Peabody consideration for the creative, didactic manner in which it enlightens an often indifferent public to this quiet crisis, and its subtle suggestion of the lifestyle changes that will be necessary to resolve it.""--1993 Peabody Awards entry form. The program, led by Scott Simon, presents four major ways of waste management: landfills, mass incinerators, recycling, and composting. The program also considers the political implications of these processes, especially now that it has reached a crisis status. The documentary features interviews with leading experts such as Natural Resources Defense Council Representative Allen Herschkowitz, Archaeologist Bill Rathje, Professor Paul Connett, P&G Representative Tom Rattray, McDonald's Representative Robert L. Langert, and Environmental Defense Fund Representative Richard Denison. Additionally, the program talks with important political figures such as Senator Dan Coats, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Governor Evan Bayh, and Senator Max Baucus. Simon works with a family from Baltimore, collecting and analyzing their daily trash in order to point to the numerous recycling and waste reduction opportunities. Funding for this program was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency. Additional funding was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Created Date
Asset type
Public Affairs
Earth Day
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Copyright Holder: Maryland Public Television
Director: Day, Kenneth R.
Executive Producer: Marshburn, Everett L.
Host: Simon, Scott
Producer: Day, Kenneth R.
Producing Organization: Maryland Public Television
Writer: Day, Kenneth R.
Writer: Simon, Scott
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Maryland Public Television
Identifier: MPT56453 (Maryland Public Television)
Format: Betacam
Generation: Master
Duration: 01:00:00
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: 93126dct-arch (Peabody Object Identifier)
Format: U-matic
Duration: 0:58:16
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Down In The Dumps - America's Garbage Crisis,” 1993-06-17, Maryland Public Television, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
MLA: “Down In The Dumps - America's Garbage Crisis.” 1993-06-17. Maryland Public Television, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Down In The Dumps - America's Garbage Crisis. Boston, MA: Maryland Public Television, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from