(Pictured above: Our lovely Sustainability Educators having a little fun during the field trip!)
Earlier this month, 4th grade students from Buckingham Elementary took a field trip to Knott Landfill. As part of our EarthSmart program and partnership with Deschutes County Solid Waste, students are able to tour the very place where all of our waste and recycling goes and learn that nothing truly ever goes “away.”
There are three stations the students tour: the landfill hole, the recycling center, and the transfer station.
At the big hole, students are able to see just how big a space is needed to bury all of our trash. Some highlights are learning about and feeling what the landfill liners are like, asking questions about the methane flare, and watching the huge dump trucks pack down all the incoming trash.
At the recycling center, students learn from the expert, Rigo, about what can/cannot be recycled and why, and get to watch the compactor crush down all the commingling, which is an exciting event! They also learn how certain materials like electronics, paint, and oil can be recycled here, too.
Lastly, at the transfer station, students put on their detective hats and check out the types of materials folks are disposing. They learn that all items unloaded at the transfer station ultimately end up in the landfill. Students are the first ones to notice materials that could have been recycled, or even better, donated or reused over again instead of sending them right to the landfill. It’s quite a shock to watch the amount of things being unloaded here, especially in such a short amount of time.
Students from Mrs. Buckman’s class wrote responses to their landfill visit. When I returned to their classroom the next week, I was welcomed by their drawings and informative knowledge. Students shared what they learned, noticed, and want to share with their friends and family from their tour:
“We learned that the difference between a dump and a landfill is that a landfill has two liners so that the leachate doesn’t leak out and a dump does not have liners. We also learned that they burn methane gas in a big pipe. We noticed that a lot of people throw away recyclable items. We also noticed there was a lot of loose trash everywhere in the landfill. We want to tell our friends and family, “If you have any cooking oil or motor oil, recycle it here!” We also want to tell them to recycle any old electric devices.”
“We noticed that people were throwing away recyclable items and paying for them when they could have recycled them for free!”
“We noticed that there was a lot of garbage that was not in the right bins. That effects a lot of things and sometimes workers have to hand pick it out.”
“I learned that Knott Landfill will fill up in 9.5 years in 2029.”
Touring the landfill is an eye-opening experience for anyone. When students see it at this age, the hope is that they are aware of how these systems and processes work and want to make changes to decrease the amount of waste they create in the first place and to educate their friends and family on the importance of recycling right.
We love taking students to the landfill and have gotten so many requests from parents and adults in the community to tour the landfill as well, so we now host community landfill tours in the spring and fall! Be on the lookout for these free events on our website and through Rethink Waste Project.
If this sparked your interest and you thought, “Wow! I want to make sure I’m recycling right!” Here is a link to our great resource, The Rethink Waste Guide, to inform you.