It was a chilly day, spring of 1998, when the sixth grade class of Kila School took the most fascinating of all field trips, to the county landfill. It stank, it was noisy, it was cold, but each one of those kids remembers that day and when they learned where their trash ends up. It was exciting and educational; motivating and meaningful. We must teach our children the impact each of us has on our valley. It is hard to push responsibility on a 12-year-old, but they get it when they visit the county landfill.
Recently, the Flathead County commissioners halted all school tours to the dump. They cite danger and dirt as cause for their abrupt action. Really? There are birds that poop; there are amazingly gross things; there is dirt being made there; there are big machines that look little because our landfill is massive; there is danger in our ignorance. The Waste Not Program along with the solid waste crew has developed fascinating educational workshops to teach us about compost, recycling and methane gas conversion. Thousands of children have safely toured the landfill, the compost and the recycling areas on their memorable field trips.
The reality is we should be proud of our solid waste system. The county, and we as taxpayers, have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to make our landfill as efficient and effective as possible. The Flathead County Solid Waste Site is the first in the state to have a landfill gas-to-energy system. We are expanding this system to take the next progressive step toward having our trash make more energy that we all can benefit from. This energy goes into the grid and provides enough energy to power 1,000 to 1,200 homes. The students of the Flathead Valley need to know what is going on at the landfill. They are the future farmers, business owners, scientists and commissioners of this country. Dealing with our waste does and should present us with a lot of questions. Hiding the reality of the increasing quantity of refuse is not the answer – education is.
Why do the plastic bottles rise to the top of the huge pile like bubbles? Why is it more economical to throw away things than mend them? Why would someone throw away a grand piano (witnessed and remembered by 27 young ones)? How long will it take for decomposition?
Please open the Solid Waste Site back up for school tours. Our children need to know where their chip bags, old socks and yard waste go. They will be safe and smarter for it.
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