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May 29, 2008

Where does our garbage go?

Kim When my boys were little, garbage collection day was always a cause for celebration. The big, noisy yellow truck so close to our house was too much for them to resist. We'd stop whatever we were doing in order to run outside and greet the garbage men and watch our trash disappear into the truck. Oh, the excitement!

This Saturday, May 31, we'll celebrate trash in a more formal way. We'll get a first hand view of what happens to our garbage when it's not being used to build sledding hills in the local parks. It's one party that destined to leave us down in the dumps. You see, SWANCC, the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County is hosting its 20th annual Open House at the Glenview Transfer Station.

Garbage from 23 north/northwest suburbs comes to the transfer station, gets dumped inside the facility, and the pushed into ginormous trash compactors. The compactors smoosh the garbage into rectangular bales that are then loaded onto trucks and sent to a balefill (like a landfill, but packed more efficiently with bales). According to the SWANCC website, this baling is 70% more efficient than a traditional landfill.

The Glenview Transfer Station processes close to 290,000 tons of garbage a year. We've been to the open house before and even on a Saturday the garbage trucks come by and dump their contents on a steady basis. Any truck loving boys (or girl) will be easily mesmerized from the viewing gallery above the dumping area.

In addition to the trucks and the compactors, SWANCC typically has displays of children's art made from recycled objects, recycling-themed games and other educational information. They offer snacks, too in case you like a little nosh as you witness the downfall of our society and don't mind the eau d' trash fumes. (Admittedly, we take our snacks however we can get 'em.)

I don't know how anyone with a conscience can leave the Open House without rethinking their consumption and recycling habits. It's one thing to read about the amount of trash our society generates, it's another thing to watch it being processed before your very eyes. And this is only for 23 communities!

If you're trying to raise eco-minded children, this is a worthwhile fieldtrip.

This is an original post to Chicago Moms Blog. Kim's family has installed a rain barrel last year at the urging of her sons' art teacher and she recycles everything she can, but she often forgets to turn off  the lights when she leaves a room. Go figure.  She blogs at Hormone-colored Days and MOMformation.

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