Above, one of three mounds at the Seneca Meadows Landfill in Waterloo, NY, as seen from the west side of Seneca Lake approximately eight miles away (through a telephoto lens). Credit: Kevin Colton, HWS.

EPA Region Map

EPA Region Map
EPA Region Map

Monday, March 28, 2011

This was absolutely disgusting. I went to visit a friend, walked into her room and this is what I found. I was totally grossed out. Nothing was separated, there was food rotting right on top. I was absolutely shocked that her room didn't smell. I talked to her about it, and she said that she would try to do better and try to separate this trash. I'm hoping that she actually listens.

I noticed this sitting on a window sill in my dorm, and I was pretty disturbed by it. The liquids in the bottles clearly are not Corona or Poland Springs water. It just brings up the disturbing question, what is in these bottles? You can't tell in the picture, but there was a layer of some sort of dark brown goo on the bottom then it lightens as it goes up. It's just gross and could easily have been disposed of. It didn't have to be left sitting there for everyone to see.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bathroom waste and water update

One thing that everyone seems to feel about recycling is that what should, and should not be recycled is an extremely confusing question. Throughout this course and our readings we have discussed different types of materials that should be recycled and the picture on the top deals with this issue. Here we see paper towels, a toothpaste tube, and body product containers. My thought when looking at these items were if they were recyclable or not and if so where do I put them? From personal observation I have seen the majority of bathroom products go into the waste bin located within the bathroom regardless of what it is made of. I honestly do not know how I would properly dispose of the containers that hold our shampoo and other soap products. Would they be grouped with plastic bottles? I know these containers have left over soap in them, is that considered a contaminant and would that void them of being recycled? Information that answered these questions would be greatly helpful on increasing our ability to reduce non recycled bathroom waste. The picture on the bottom is the next update on my water consumption tracking. As you can see from each post it grows significantly and produces large quantities of waste. One thing i did think of though was the sustainability that is created if i do decide to recycle. There is a 5 cent return deposit on each bottle, times 30 in the large packs, $1.50 makes up for a significant portion of the cost of the water as well as ensures the bottles are recycled.

The Green Book

Friday afternoon I received my second Green Book essay exam from my sociology professor. This time the paper booklet did not stand out for the grade on it, but for the large recycle sign posted on the front cover. A fact which I had missed so many times before. The booklet is made with Roaring Springs paper products and claims to use a minimum of 30% post-consumer waste. After some research I found that the company is currently operating at 98% landfill free. In just one year has save 11 million gallons of water and reduced landfill space by 4,690 cubic yards. With this progress the company hopes to achieve zero waste in the near future.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The old landfill

The other day I was talking to my dad about our class and we got on the topic of landfills. He told me that when he was a kid my grandfather would take the household trash and throw it into a gully located about a mile up the road where they lived. This practice had stopped many many years ago, but was common place in the past. I searched out the location of the old "dump" and found that its actually still being used as a dump site, but not for household trash. When I peered over the edge of the gully I could see piles of rotting cabbage. The farmers across the street now use it as a place to dispose of unwanted cabbage. I also noticed a couple pieces of scrap wood along with various other unwanted items. This location is on Healey Road just a couple of miles away, the gully is about 40-50 ft.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Home Waste

While on spring break I was able to take two very good photos relating to waste that is generated at my house. The picture on the top is of two garbage bags that my family uses to throw our trash in that is generated throughout the day. I come from a 7 person, 2 dog household and when we are all home the amount of waste we generate builds up rather quickly. The two bags seen here can be generated up to every two days, meaning about one of those bags a day. In our waste district on Long Island the waste is collected and sorted at the dump site, aside from cans and glass we do not have to separate the waste that we generate. Paper and food products are the largest quantities of waste that those bags contain. The picture on the bottom was taken while on the train into New York City. If you look closely between the floor and the railroad platform you can see a huge mound of black garbage bags. I was able to grab a quick shot of this spectacle as the train was passing by. I was not sure what it was or how it gets disposed of but there was a literal mountain of black garbage bags in what appeared to be someones backyard. There were no sanitation buildings near by as far as i could tell and the building closest seemed to be a small housing facility. I thought this was something people would like to see and also speculate about.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I recently came across a new flavor of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Clusterfluff, which was an absolute delight. But after consuming the peanut butter and marshmallow filled dessert I wondered about the product itself. Shockingly the ice cream company had this thought as well, they too seemed concerned with the afterlife of each pint they created. The excess ice cream products are not acceptable in wastewater treatment plants, instead are sent to a methane bio-digester left for farmers and the remaining is used in composting.

On the drive back from Kentucky, as we drove through Ohio on I-71, I noticed a large landfill by the side of the interstate. We had been driving through very flat country for a while, and we were far from most civilization. Obviously the most important considerations in the sighting of this landfill were to get it as far away from people as possible, while keeping it highly accessible to the trucks that bring the garbage in. However, since the landfill was so far from civilization, I could see (but failed to photograph) that they just burned off the methane that came from the garbage, from a large black tube. Based on the size and visibility of the flame, it seemed as though they had a fair amount of methane output from the landfill. This was plain evidence that there are positives and negatives to many landfill sightings; in this case, the garbage wasn’t in anyone’s backyard, but it was too far away to capture energy that could be harnessed from methane output.

Over spring break, a few friends and I took a drive down to Kentucky to rock climb in the Red River Gorge. It is a beautiful state, the people there are very friendly and helpful, but I noticed something very different from up north in the way they deal with their trash. Places like Geneva NY, Bozeman MT, most of California, and many other places throughout the country are up to date on garbage and recycling practices, and in some cases pretty advanced. Biodegradable bags, 100% recycled and re-recyclable bottles, and returnable and re-usable food wrappers are on the cutting edge of environmentally friendly waste practices, and are fairly prevalent in our stores. On the other end of the spectrum, and certainly not at the opposite extreme, some states and areas are still struggling to breach the hurdle of preventing people from littering, let alone getting them to recycle. In Kentucky, it appeared as though people still littered quite readily. There was garbage on the sides of trails, beside and in roads, on hills, and even right next to garbage receptacles. There are efforts being made to reduce littering, mainly with signs warning of a $500 fine for littering, but they clearly are not 100% effective. This made it clear that while the initiatives that companies like Naked and Odwalla are taking are very good and productive, there is still a lot of educating and reform that needs to happen to bring some parts of the country up to the standard of modern waste practices.

Monday, March 21, 2011

During spring break I stayed in a hotel in Maryland that seemed to have take a green intuitive. They put little cards on the bed about not changing the sheets, as well as has compostable plates, bowls, and utensils to use in the lobby. While I do think that this is a good start, the hotel could do a little better. While having compostble items is good, the hotel did not provide a compost bin, or any recycling bin. I found this interesting that they would not provide a place to compost compostable items.
As for the card, any idea to try and save water, especially in hotels, is a great idea. My only worry is thinking about who actually remembers to place the card on their bed when they leave for the day. Also, I dont think many people traving to hotels near airports stay more than one night anyways, so the card is useless.

On my way to Canandaigua the other day I noticed that I was driving by a landfill. I was unable to take any photos of the active face, as it was located away from the road. But, I did get to capture the weighing station, which is in the distance of the picture to the right, and they type of trucks that were dumping garbage, below. The trucks pictured below are only two out of seven that were in line to be weighed and dump garbage. These photos were taken around 10 am. This makes me wonder how many other loads of garbage we taken to the dump that day.

When I researched how much weight a eighteen wheeler can carry I found out that they can hold up to 80,000 pounds.

A recent trip to the Whole Foods Market in Annapolis, Md brought upon the thrill of sorted waste. There was the choice to compost, recycle, or "landfill". This initiative is to separate the waste for proper distribution after the items use.

Trashy Spring Break Photos

There is a river under this blanket of trash!
While most of us were enjoying a relaxing spring break with our families or on a beach somewhere, a group of HWS students chose to take their spring break to volunteer. I was catching up with a friend last night that participated on an alternative spring break to Tennessee to clean up a section of the Mississippi river. They worked with a group called Living Lands and Waters, this organization is headed by Chad Pregracke (who came to HWS a few years back to give a presentation to students) and its sole mission is to clean up the river and its tributaries, one piece of trash at a time.

As my friend was telling me about the trip and showing me pictures I was shocked at the vast amounts of trash they encountered. As you can see from the photos above...it is pretty appalling. There was trash so thick, she said, that you couldn't see the surface of the water. They pulled water bottles, paint cans, old fridges, tires, milk crates, toys and a whole list of other junk from the river and a nearby lake. She told me the progress was slow, that this organization would work for months at the same location and return the next year to conditions that were just as bad. I found it hard to believe that there was still this kind of pollution in our country, I'd never seen anything like it. My friend explained that the surrounding towns didn't have regular trash pick-up so most household trash was dumped or left out to be flooded into the river later.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Laziness and bars

I was once again astounded by the laziness of the people at this school on Thursday morning before break. I was walking downstairs to go to the exam for this class and discovered the lovely image above. I thought it was gross when someone had left their chicken wings in the container on the stairs, but I was hoping that would be a one time thing. I guess I was wrong. Apparently people now think that stairs are trash cans, and it's acceptable to leave their garbage just sitting on the floor. I really don't understand it. All that had to do was walk a few feet down the hall and they could dispose of it properly.

I know that the above image is a little hard to see, but it is a picture that I took at a bar in Rochester over break (the night before St.Patrick's day to be specific). I was sitting by a window with some friends and looked outside. I was pretty amazed by what I saw. This is the trash as well as recycling that was produced by the bar. I wasn't so much surprised at the quantity but by the fact that it was all separated and ready to go. I was impressed that someone had actually taken the time to separate all the cardboard and cans and everything and put them on the curb.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New admissions requirement: identify what is and is not recyclable

As I was doing some spring cleaning before spring break, I noticed that my residents had done the same thing before they left for the week. I was happy to see that the recycling bin was full, but upon closer examination I realized that the wrong things were getting recycled. As you can see from the picture, I pulled out wool socks, a plant (that was still alive with soil and root system intact) with a plastic heart from Valentine’s day, a Gatorade bottle full of something that wasn’t Gatorade, an entire package of cheese food (the kind of cheese that comes individually wrapped) and a whole bunch of other junk that didn’t belong there.

I don’t think it takes an environmental studies major to determine that most of that stuff shouldn’t have been in the recycling bin. Maybe it is time for some new admissions requirements or a 9th goal. Because environmental studies has so many cross listed classes and is so interdisciplinary it seems as though it would be impossible to spend four years here and never encounter a discussion about sustainability. But maybe that is not enough. A few years ago there was a group of SIE students who were trying to raise student support for a 9th goal regarding sustainability. I am not sure what happened to that proposal or what obstacle it got hung up on, but it seems like a good goal to add and an easy one to accomplish.

Composting at Home

When I read Royte's book, one of the problems I had with it was how difficult she made composting seem. So, while I was home on break, I decided to photograph our composting system to demonstrate the simplicity of it. There are two parts; the bowl on our back steps, and the actual composter. We put all of our food scraps into the bowl and once a week, andmy dad empties the bowl into the composter (which is currently in our garage for repair). After that, the composter takes care of the rest! All the work required is bringing the scraps to the composter and emptying that once the matter breaks down inside. There is nothing too difficult about it that should prevent every family from having one!

Canandaigua Waste Water Treatment Plant

In class the other day Professor Magee mentioned that the waste water treatment plant in Geneva will not accept any leachate from Seneca Meadows landfill. Instead it was trucked up to Canandaigua's waste water treatment plant. I was surprised to hear that Canandaigua would accept leachate that Geneva would not. Canandaigua is very protective of their lake, it didn't make any sense until he said the "treated" water is pumped into a creek that takes it up to Lake Ontario. I had never paid much attention to Canandaigua's waste water treatment plant and didn't even know where it was located. I took a short drive and happened to see a sign for it pretty quickly. The photo shows the back side of it from the parking lot behind Shepard Ford.

Community Benefits

On my self tour of the outside of Casella Landfill I took some photos of what I think could be examples of community benefits for the town of Seneca for hosting the landfill. I have noticed that since Casella took over the landfill it has grown immensely. In the process of exponential growth Casella has tried to improve the outward presentation of the landfill. They have created a giant berm with a row of trees along 5&20, put a sign up in front of a swamp on the corner of 5&20 and county rd 5, along with various other things. The photo of the buildings shows the new town buildings for the town of Seneca, which I assume Casella assisted with but am not certain. Another thing that I noticed was fire hydrants. It seems a little out of place to have town water in an area that is so far out in the country.

Casella Landfill

On my way to Bristol the other day I was following a couple of trucks up 5&20 on their way to Casella Landfill in Flint. I turned onto a side road that goes along the east side of the landfill. I had never driven down there and was curious to see the entire scope of the sprawling landfill. I was surprised to see how large the landfill actually is. I stopped on the side of the road along the back side of the landfill and grabbed a couple photos. This one shows the trucks that I was following up the highway get in line with a seemingly never ending caravan of semi trucks hauling garbage to the top of the growing pile of trash.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Water Station

Before I left for spring break I acquired this water station. It was left as trash in the hallway of my dorm since the first day of the semester. I figured it would make a great addition to the room as well as save many plastic bottles. I was astonished that when I pluged it in, and it was in perfect working condition. I couldn't believe that someone would consider this trash! However, I am not complaining now. I am really excited that I will be able to reduce the amount of plastic water bottles I consume. To reduce the amount of 5 gallon water jugs I use, I cut a hole in the top of the jug so I can re-fill the container with water.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Even though these two pictures I took in Sherrill Hall on campus are very general, I thought that they effectively represented the lack of recycling in the dorms. Every day I walk down the hall and see a full recycle bin, and then an over-stuffed garbage bin with all kinds of recyclable items in it as well. The most common are pizza boxes, cardboard boxes from beverages, plastic bottles, and food containers. I think that this is a problem because the bins fill up fast and students are forced to throw away recyclables, and also because they simply don't care which one it ends up in as long as it is out of their room. I don't think it is that much of an inconvenience to have to recycle, but for some people I guess it is. Like my Aunt's family for example who still doesn't recycle one thing in their household; I'm working on fixing that.
I believe that the increasing amount of waste in our landfills is a problem that needs to be known and understood in much greater detail in our country. People will then take it more seriously and think again before filling a trash can with cardboard or plastic. Through our school the message is being put out there on this level and hopefully we will see a drastic increase in recycling on campus. For those towns surrounding us, more changes need to be made.

Casella Waste Systems

On Friday, 3/11/11, on my way to school I again found myself behind one of those dirty and grimy 18-wheelers. It even had some kind of plastic bags coming out from under the tarp, so I figured it was most likely on its way to the local landfill. As I was driving beside the truck I saw that it was a Casella truck. I wanted to know more about Casella so I did some looking around and found some interesting information. Casella Waste Systems, which was formed in 1978, is now in 34 states and owns or operates 13 landfills, 38 solid waste collection businesses, 32 waste transfer stations, and 38 recycling facilities. The waste management company continues to acquire more trash haulers, transfer stations, and landfills every year. As a result, in some areas Casella owns the full regional waste stream and thus, local governments are forced to pay higher prices for their waste disposal services. Like most other waste management companies, Casella has been charged and fined for many violations and many citizen groups have filed lawsuits against them. Casella Waste systems is one of the largest waste management companies and is continuing to grow, so you can expect to see many more problems with them in the future. I wonder just how many of these trucks they have on the road everyday?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Waste Water

I was really surprised to walk into the restroom that I share with four other people to see that the water was left running from the lavatory faucet. As you can see from the picture, the water was not just dripping from the faucet, it was pouring out. Even if the water was just dripping out of the faucet at a rate of one drop per second, it can waste up to 2,700 gallons per year or 20 gallons per day. Not only is a leaking faucet a terrible and unnecessary waste of water, it increases the cost of water and sewer utilities. Sadly, the water may have been left running all day and that is a lot of wasted water going down a sink that will end up in a water treatment plant to be processed, an added expense that could have been avoided. Taking the time to turn off a faucet or fixing a leaky faucet is a simple fix for saving a valuable resource, water.

Todays Newspapers

Our landfills are full of newspapers even though they can be recycled. This is a major environmental problem since over 55 million people in the United States read newspapers on a daily basis and approximately 30% of newspapers end up in landfills every year. Unfortunately, our forests as well as in other countries are disappearing at very rapid rates to supply the demand for such things as newspapers. It is estimated that over 200 million trees are cut down every year to feed our newspaper as well as other reading habits. A great solution to saving our environment from the devastation caused by deforestation is to encourage people toread newspapers online. As you can see from the picture, most newspapers such as local newspapers or the popular New York Times are available online and sold at comparable subscription costs. Reading the newspaper online is simple, convenient, saves trees and landfills from unnecessary waste. Moreover, it saves people from the frustrating experience of finding out that their newspaper is either missing or laying in a water puddle.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I saw this truck, operated by one of the major waste haulers in the region, this morning on my walk to work, as I do pretty much every morning. Each of these can carry 20-25 tons of waste (some haul landfill-bound waste, others haul recyclables to the MRF at the Ontario County Landfill). Three loaded trucks passed HWS during the time it took me to walk from the football field to the hill.

Compostable Consumerism Ends with a CRUNCH

Almost a year ago, Frito-Lay made an ingenious move; the compostable Sun Chips bag. In a time when environmentalism is growing both as a trend and as a realistic concern for future generations, the concept of a guilt-free bag served to take the weight off of the shoulders of consumers; shopping moms wanting to please their families' taste buds as well as their environmental conscience, and environmental studies students in need of a cure for the munchies could soon breathe a sigh of relief... or so Frito-Lay engineers assumed.
As excited as many consumers of Sun Chips were to hear of the sun chips bag that would compost completely in 14 weeks, many were unreceptive to the accompanying "crunch." It turns out that the materials (and chemical bonds) used to make the bags made them much more rigid and loud than any other chip-bag on the market. According to a USA Today Article published in October of 2010, the racket these bags were making was being "compared to everything from lawnmowers to jet engines."
According to profits, the cost to consumers' ears strongly outweighed the benefits to mother nature. The compostable bags were pulled from the shelves (in every flavor except Original) no more than 18 months from their debut, due to the overwhelmingly negative feedback from customers. Ok, ok. Noisy bags make it a lot harder to sneak junk-food snacks behind mom's back. But, the overwhelming reactions to Frito-Lay's efforts uncovers a revealing truth about the value systems held by the population of individuals consuming these products. Come on, you may be mildly annoyed, but don't pretend for one second that this crinkling will make you any more deaf than the decibel level produced daily by your favorite earbuds. What matters more, the volume of your kitchen conversation, or the health of your (future) children?
To Frito-Lay's credit, however, they have not given up just yet. According to the Official Sun Chips Website, an equally compostable and exponentially quieter version of the composting bags will be hitting the shelves of grocery stores in the months to come. Hopefully Sun Chips aficionados will be pleased this time around.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What's wrong with this picture?!

Can you guess what is wrong with this picture?.... Just about everything. If you look into the trash can there are numerous things that should be recycled. This includes all the paper, aluminum bottle, and plastic container. The garbage consisted mainly of paper products and had little amounts of things that actually should have been thrown away. Taking a closer look you can see that there is nothing in the recycling bin... except a layer of liquid on the bottom. Anything that could be recycled, like paper products, would be contaminated by this liquid. This would result in a good chance that anything recycled and contaminated would not be able to complete the recycling process. This type of carelessness can be seen all around the HWS campus. A prime example is the disposal bins in Scandling Center. These bins include trash, recycling, and composting but no matter what someone will always dispose of something in the wrong bin. Countless number of times there is recycling in the compost of garbage in the recycling. It takes an extra 15 seconds to sort your trash and if everyone took those 15 seconds maybe it will become second nature... or hopefully it will.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Collegiate Tumbleweed

This weekend, I looked out my kitchen window and saw a hint of color rolling around in the snow. Upon further attention, my housemates and I realized that this wind-blown object was none other then an empty 30 rack cardboard box.
At first I laughed at how ridiculous it was to see the evidence of someone's night laid out in the snow for everyone to see. Then my train of thought went past the "haha, oh college" thought and on to a recycling thought. A 30 rack is one of the simplest objec
ts to recycle. With such incredibly thin cardboard and poor glue, it takes almost no effort to quickly fold the box into a size that can fit into our giant recycling bins. If this box were to stay outside, it would get wet and hence be rendered un-recyclable. This careless thought of tossing the box out into the snow would put the empty, lonely 30 rack right into a landfill. No one likes to clean up the next morning, but the least you could do is to recycle an obviously recyclable item. So, with these eco-proud thoughts, I marched right outside in the snow without shoes, grabbed the remnants of a of last-night's-brew-box, and put it where it belonged.

(A note on the box: upon carrying the box back to my house, I realized the head-sized hole in the side of it indicated that the box had already served a second purpose (as a hat) the night before, so the box had been "reclaimed" once already. Just not in the eco-friendly sense).

Recycled Clothes

I have always donated clothes that I grew out of or lost interest in to the thrift store in my hometown, and I just assumed that was the greenest option for my old clothes. However, I just discovered that some clothes can actually be recycled. This weekend I bought a sweater I have had a crush on for a long time, but just haven't been willing to pay full price for. The stars must have aligned because not only was it on sale, but it is made out of a material that can be recycled!

The brand Patagonia has over a dozen environmental initiatives, one of which is the Common Threads Recycling Program. According to their statement online the company is actively trying to 'close the loop on the product life cycle'. They set a goal to make all of their products recyclable in some way in five years. They report that they are about a year behind schedule, but will reach this goal in late 2011. It turns out that polyester and nylon products can actually be melted down and made into fiber of the same strength and quality, and wool and cotton products can be ripped up and reproduced into a lesser, but still usable product. So when I have totally worn out my sweater or when I finally have that growth spurt I have been waiting for and I am too tall for my sweater I can mail it into their head quarters and they will recycle it!

The website also offered a few tips I thought were worth sharing:
1. Reduce- buy less stuff and purchase things that are good quality and will last for a long time. Americans for sure own more clothes than most societies, we could definitely get by with less.
2. Repair- if you break or damage something, try to fix it before tossing it
3- Reuse- donate your old clothes
4- Recycle- buy products that have a longer life cycle and can be recycled responsibly

(my picture hasn't been able to upload, I think it is stuck in cyberspace somewhere- but it was just a logo of the Common Thread program)

To follow up on last weeks post on disposal of lithium ion batteries, I decided to go to Lowes and dispose of my battery correctly and investigate the recycling process further. Apparently the best way to maximize the recycling of lithium and other rechargeable batteries is to toss them at a ‘Recycling center’ like this one located at the Geneva Lowes. It was conveniently located just inside the front doors and was easily found without asking any employees. Just for curiosity sake I took a peek into the collection container to get an idea of its contents. The majority of the batteries were universal sized (AAA, AA, C, 9 volt etc.) Nickel Metal Hydride—NiMH--rechargeable batteries. I only could see one lithium ion battery, which I took as a good sign and a bad sign. On the bad side, this lack of Li ion batteries could mean that people just don’t know that they can be recycled here. However, the fact that there were lots of NiMH batteries in the container suggested that people do know about it. This means that there just aren’t as many Li ion batteries needing to be disposed of. It is my understanding that Li ion batteries can be recharged many more times compared to the older NiMH ones, and thus there are not as many coming out of circulation as a result of failure. By having a longer life span Li ion batteries are greatly reducing the amount of rechargeable batteries needing to be recycled.