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recycling tour

Today we went with a homeschooling group on a recycling tour at Homewood Disposal in Homewood. I set up the tour for the group because 1) Aidan loves watching the garbage trucks and recycling trucks when they come by to pick up our trash, 2) we try to take an active role in recycling at home and try to instill the importance of this onto Aidan, and 3) we thought it would be neat to see what exactly happens down at a recycling facility.

I really enjoyed the tour, and based on the comments from Mike and Aidan I think they too also enjoyed it. Our tour guide, Megan, did a nice job presenting information to the group and explaining the recycling process, including how it is picked up from residents, how it is sorted at their facility and smashed into bales, how it gets delivered to other facilities, and how it is then turned into other materials. After explaining the process and presenting the information with PowerPoint we then were able to go out and actually go through the facility. But first, we had to get our hard hats on–I think all the kids enjoyed this! Going through the facility and seeing the conveyor belts and the people working on the lines was very interesting–and not just from my perspective, but from Aidan’s as well. Aidan kept stopping and tugging at me and saying “wow, look at this or look at that.” He seemed to really enjoy seeing it all.

Okay, this may sound strange, but walking through the recycling facility I was taken by the beauty of the bales of recycled material. I know this may sound very weird and ridiculous. I mean how can recycled materials smashed down together and smushed into square bales be considered something of beauty. But when you look at these bales you see color and texture and perhaps something even more–the possibility of these materials being made into new stuff and not just laying in a landfill waiting thousands even millions of years to decompose. This also reminded me of an artist that Mike had shown me awhile back and had brought up again today as we were on our tour. The artist is Chris Jordan and one collection of his work is Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption.

After looking at the different sections of the recycling area we went out into another part of the facility–where the actual garbage is dumped. To say that this area was a bit stinky is an understatement–most of the kids made some exclamation about the smell and many of them were holding their noses through this part of the tour. We learned that the regular garbage is brought by the garbage trucks to this facility and then put into semi-trucks to be taken to a landfill. One shocking fact that Megan mentioned during this part of the tour that really stuck with me is that more than 40 semi-trucks PER DAY take garbage from this one facility to a landfill. That sure is a lot of garbage that is being dumped onto our precious Earth. And what is worse is that within this garbage there is probably a ton of items that could be recycled! It would be great if everyone would start taking some small steps, such as making sure they throw that plastic water bottle in the recycling can instead of the garbage can (better yet stop buying those bottled water and use a reusable bottle!).

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