Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson

The Garbage Glossary

3 Rs
The three ways to minimize the amount of trash thrown away: Reduce, reuse and recycle. (See below for definitions of each.)
Alternative daily cover (ADC)
Daily cover (see definition below) other than dirt, such as crushed glass, tarps or even a spray-on material made from recycled newspapers. The use of ADC is becoming more common at landfills throughout the country.
Closing the loop
Completing the recycling cycle by buying products that were made with recycled materials.
A soil amendment, or fertilizer, made from the decomposition of organic matter such as yard waste and food scraps. Many people make compost from such wastes in their own backyard, and then use it to help their gardens or lawn grow nicely.
Recycling organic matter, such as yard waste and some food scraps, into compost. Usually composting requires the right mix of materials added together in a pile, kept moist with water and turned periodically until the material decomposes and becomes compost.
Daily cover
A cover of 6-12 inches of dirt that is put over the trash at the end of each working day at a sanitary landfill. Daily cover helps keep odors down, keeps pests away, prevents fires, keeps trash from blowing away and prevents moisture from trickling through the trash (which can pollute the groundwater below).
To break down into natural elements; decay. For instance, a banana peel thrown on the ground will look different a couple weeks later because it's decomposing into small parts and going back into the earth.
Dual stream recycling
A recycling process in which cans and bottles (one stream) are collected separately from paper products (the other stream). Compare with single stream recycling explained below.
An unregulated place where trash is dumped, and the surrounding environment is not protected or monitored. Dumps used to be common, but are now illegal in the United States.
Water that's beneath the earth's surface between soil and deep layers of rock. This water supplies springs and wells, and may be used to supply drinking water.
Household hazardous waste (HHW)
Something in your home that could be dangerous that you no longer want. HHW is usually some type of chemical that may be toxic (poisonous), corrosive (can eat through skin or material), reactive (can cause a fire or a harmful gas to be produced if mixed with oxygen or another chemical) or an irritant (can cause soreness or swelling of your skin, eyes or internal organs). Examples include paint, pesticides, antifreeze, bleach, etc. HHW should never be thrown away in the trash because it can contaminate the environment. Instead, take it to the Larimer County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility.
A facility at which trash is burned instead of buried in a landfill. (The resulting ash must still be landfilled.)
A combination of chemicals and water, or a fancy word for "polluted water." Leachate occurs when chemicals in buried trash leak down into the groundwater.
Leachate collection system
An underground system of pipes used to collect leachate and make sure it doesn't get into the groundwater. Although the Larimer County Landfill doesn't have a leachate collection system like newer landfills do, the groundwater there is tested for contamination on a regular basis. When leachate is found, it's pumped out and treated to make sure it doesn't affect others.
Just like the trash bag you might have in your kitchen trashcan, a landfill's liner keeps trash from leaking, in this case into the groundwater below. But the Larimer County Landfill was built in 1963 before liners were required, so it doesn't have a man-made liner. We got lucky, though - our landfill was built on a layer of dense bedrock called Pierre shale that acts like a natural liner.
Methane gas
A potentially harmful gas released from landfills as trash decomposes. At the Larimer County Landfill, vents placed around the landfill allow methane and other gases to escape into the atmosphere. If gases had no way to escape, they could cause underground fires or explosions. Methane gas is considered a greenhouse gas, one that collects in the earth's atmosphere and traps heat within the atmosphere.
MRF (pronounced "murf")
Materials Recovery Facility; a place where recyclables are sorted, processed and shipped out to be made into new materials. Commonly known as a recycling center.
To make something new out of something old by changing its chemical or physical properties; the third and least important of the "3 Rs," because although recycling is good, it still requires energy and creates some pollution to make new items.
To create less trash in the first place; the first and most important of the "3 Rs." Buying less and using fewer materials in your daily life are ways to reduce.
To use something over and over again; the second most important of the "3 Rs." Reusing is something you can do in your own home or town. Examples include using an old yogurt container to store pennies in or donating old clothes to charity.
Sanitary landfill
A landfill that follows rules set by the federal government, including having an underground liner, a leachate collection system, a method for venting gases and using daily cover. The Larimer County Landfill is a sanitary landfill.
Single stream recycling
A recycling process in which materials are collected all mixed together with no sorting required by individual recyclers. So cans and bottles can be recycled together with newspaper, cardboard, etc. Compare to dual stream recycling explained above.
Tipping fees
Fees charged to dump trash at landfills and waste transfer stations.
Transfer station
A place, often in a rural area, where trash is temporarily collected and then periodically transported to a landfill or incinerator.
A method of composting food scraps by adding redworms to them in a specially prepared bin or box.
Waste diversion
The act of preventing garbage from being disposed of in landfills or incinerators by reducing the amount of materials that you use or buy, reusing products, recycling or composting.
Zero Waste
A goal that, if met, would result in very little waste being created; instead, people would find ways to reduce the amount of materials used in the first place and to reuse or recycle worn or unwanted materials. Zero Waste principles also apply to hazardous wastes, by eliminating or reducing the use of hazardous materials in products.
Background Image: Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson. All rights reserved.