At least once in our lives we should all stand in the middle of a ‘landfill site’ and take time to reflect.
The westerly winds were with me as I left Ullapool with my evidence bag full of materials from the Back Beach and headed east along the A839 and then North through the contrasting low landscape of Caithness to the Seater Landfill Site, where all ‘non-recyclable materials’ are destined to go in the Highlands.
The sign on the road gives nothing away as to the extensive waste handling operation that is going on up the single track road. I reported to Andrea The Highland Councils Waste Management Assistant at the site office, who summarised how large ‘cells’ of areas of the site are successively excavated across the site, filled with waste and then covered over.
As we set off for the ‘tip face’ the haulage contractor from Ross-shire which would have included the beach litter from Isle Martin pulled out of the site having just dropped his consignment of 44 tonnes of waste into this months ‘cell’.
We followed the track up to the centre of the site entered the netted area protecting the exposed waste from the winds and birds . Pausing to try and take in the waste we were about to walk over, I was pleased the day was overcast to dampen the smell and glare from shining colours of the plastic bags and objects mounded in front of us. The volume of litter before us was chilling – bags and bags of our rubbish, bottles, food, books, household objects and now ….
I took my ‘evidence bag’ to the centre of the cell placing it down, sickened to be adding yet more rubbish to this burial mound. Walking across this squelching mound of rubbish I felt the heavy weight of the litter beneath me . Is there an alternative? Can we reduce what we use, throw away and therefore have to bury? Each day at this site the council deals with 3-5 trucks of rubbish, requiring excavation, lining the cells to prevent leaching , the water run-off has to be drained and filtered before it can join the natural water courses and the mounds have to be capped off with the earth removed earlier. The site is anticipated to be in use burying our rubbish until 2040. The illustrated Guide to Britain lying on top of the mound seems to be testimony to what we are doing and therefore the reason for this site .
Andrea pointed out that significant amounts of the rubbish before us could have been recycled if it had been separated. We all need to try harder to be separating out materials so this mound is kept to a minimum. She also is working locally to increase awareness as to the need to do this. The children’s painting on the side of the site office is simple, strong and heart warming ‘Recycle’
I drove away chanting the Waste Service moto ‘REDUCE, REUSE , RECYLE, REDUCE, REUSE , RECYCLE, REDUCE, REFUSE, RECYCLE which quickly changed into REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE the battle cry against excessive plastic packaging.
Many thanks to the Highland Councils, Waste Services for allowing me to follow the outcomes of the litter I have towed off Isle Martin.