Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Field Trip: Landfill and Discovery Museum

Today we took a field trip.  We thought we'd share some of what we did:

Our first stop was the landfill.   Papa, for one, was very interested in visiting the Placer landfill because trash and recycling are thrown out together in Placer County (no sorting or curbside recycling).  He wanted to see how efficient the separation process really is because he feels weird about "throwing away" his recycling.

We took a full tour.
First we saw where the trash is dropped off.  It was dropped in a giant room called the tipping room.  Huge machines pushed the trash on to a conveyor belt where the sorting began.

Sorting began mechanically by size.  Bottles (both plastic and glass) were also mechanically separated.  Then around 100 workers separated out paper and cardboard as fast as they could.

A magnetic conveyor belt separated most of the metal products and a worker did the final sorting.

Whatever was not separated (or was missed) was taken to the landfill.   

Our guide also took us out to see the composting area.  The compost was so hot that it started steaming.  Our guide said that it was up to 180 degrees F. 

Thoughts from the participants:
Grace: "At the landfill I learned that it really smells.  When they crunch a bunch of aluminum together the cubes are sold for $5000 each!"

Sophia: "If you put your hand in the compost long enough, you can burn your hand."

Eli: "There were rooms and rooms full of bales of paper."

Joey: "It was interesting to see how Placer County deals will waste differently than Marin.  In Marin, we separate everything out in advance.  Assuming the residents do a good job, everything will be recycled.  But that is a big assumption and anything thrown in the trash goes straight to the landfill and is not sorted.  On the other hand, in Placer, everything is together and everything is sorted.  If the workers and machines do a good job, there will be a high rate of recycling.  But stuff gets missed all the time, of course (particularly things tied in plastic bags).  So neither system is perfect, but both seem pretty decent and end up recycling a lot."

Afterwards, we also visited the Discovery Museum in Sacramento where we saw exhibits about space and animals.  Sophia's favorite part was the "Cosmic Cafe", where you got to prepare a healthy meal.

Eli's favorite part of the Discovery Museum was the electrically charged plasma ball (he says: "if you are thinking about a Christmas present: hint, hint").

It was a fun day.

Eli, Sophia, Grace, and Joey

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