Waste Field Trip with Yaqan Nukiy

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Mr. Marzke’s grade 4/5 class started April with a trip to our local landfill! This Creston Valley Landfill is about a 5-10min drive from the school so it really is in our backyard and reinforces the concept that there is no ‘away’. We can throw out our garbage, but it all stays on Earth, and we have to manage it very carefully.

Mike Morrison from the RDCK led us on a tour of the landfill. The Creston Valley Landfill receives about 7000 tonnes of garbage per year. That means about 27 dump trucks per week!

In general, one third of the garbage comes from construction sites, one third is household waste and one third is commercial waste. Of the household waste, about 45% by weight is food. So the RDCK is looking into implementing a composting system in the future to reduce how much of that compostable waste is being buried in the landfill. One of the issues for this kind of program in a rural area is that there are less people and the people are spread out so it makes recycling and composting programs more expensive to run than in urban areas. In the meantime, our class at Yaqan Nukiy has a worm bin so that our food waste can be composted instead of going to the landfill.

We saw the garbage compressor machine that rolls over and crushes the garbage. Every night the landfill buries the garbage so that water won’t come into contact with the garbage. This is important because the dump is on a hill above the Kootenay River and we don’t want any pollution from the garbage to flow downhill into our water system.

Some of the garbage areas have been capped with soil and a rubber barrier. As this waste settles and some of it decomposes, it releases methane gas. The methane gas is collected and burned off so it does not contribute as much to greenhouse gas effects. In some landfills this methane gas is burned off and heats water that powers a lumber kiln or greenhouses that need the extra heat.

The wood waste that comes to the landfill is ground up and used around the landfill to bury garbage, mixed with septic waste or make roads. Most of the plastic, paper, and metal that we recycle in different locations in Creston goes to Spokane or Kelowna to be sorted and recycled.

The Creston landfill only has 65 years of space left at the current rate of waste disposal. That’s not very long! Mr. Marzke’s class discussed ways to divert more waste from the landfill by making good consumer choices, by reusing items, giving them a new life, fixing them, recycling, composting and helping our community become more aware of their waste habits.