Talkin’ Trash

In Tuesday’s Grand Forks Herald there was a story on the front page titled, "Trash Transport"  by Ryan Johnson, Herald Staff Writer.  The story was about how the city of Grand Forks has started to transport its trash to Fargo.  The current landfill in Grand Forks can no longer be used and the new one won’t be ready until sometime in mid September. You can go to Tuesday’s Grand Forks Herald or to read the full article or click on this link

This story reminded me of an NIE supplement we have titled "Talkin’ Trash" from KRP. Here is an interesting article and some graphics from the supplement on how a landfill works.  I have also included some newspaper activities at the end. 


Once a garbage truck is full of trash, it heads to the sanitary landfill to dump its load, then heads back out to the neighborhoods to pick up more.

To flatten and crush the many loads of garbage, a compactor — a large bulldozer with giant spikes on its wheels — is driven back and forth over it. Trucks then level it out and pack it down.

A layer of dirt is spread over the newly flattened garbage by machines called graders. The trash is covered with dirt as soon as possible to help keep odors down, stop the spread of bacteria, and discourage scavengers such as sea gulls, rats, and insects.

As rainwater passes through the layers of trash, it becomes polluted with household hazardous waste like bug sprays, paints, household cleaners, and car oil. This polluted water is called leachate. Before sanitary landfills were built, leachate would collect underneath the many layers of garbage and slowly leak out into the ground, eventually making it into water supplies. Modern landfills are lined with layers of gravel, clay, and plastic to keep that from happening. Leachate is now collected and piped into treatment facilities.

Rotting organic garbage produces a gas called methane, which is the primary ingredient in the kind of gas that is used for creating electricity or for heating and cooking in homes. In landfills, where huge masses of garbage are decomposing in an enclosed area, there is a danger of methane fires or even explosions. Sanitary landfills are equipped with pipes that bring the methane to the surface, then into treatment plants where it can be turned into electricity and sold.

What happens when a landfill is full? It is capped, or closed off, with a layer of clay followed by a 6-foot layer of earth. Capped landfills are then “reclaimed.” Some have become parks, others parking lots, and still others have served as the foundations to airports.


1. Make a list of all the disposable products you can think of and what they are used for. Look through the ads in your newspaper for more ideas. Next to each item, write down what people used before the disposable product was invented. Are these “non-disposable” products still available? Who uses them and why?

2. Your paper’s classified ads are a treasure trove of re-usable items. Look through the items for sale and make a list of the categories of items that are being sold. Choose an item you would like to buy, then decide whether you would be buying it for a primary re-use or a secondary re-use.

3. Using the ads in your paper’s classified section as guides, write your own classified ads for three things around your house that you could sell for primary re-use rather than throw away. Now, take the same items and write an ad to sell the item for a secondary re-use.

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