Garbage !

From the blog Karen and Dave In Samoa

Posted April 21, 2011


It would be nice to say that Karen and I had such great success with the first field trip to the beach that we decided to go on another field trip. But, that would be a lie. The truth is we planned for two!

Good thing they didn’t have any candy yet!


Kids happy to be barefoot again

hahahahaha… With the help of a JICA volunteer, Yasuko, we managed to bring thirteen children and two teachers from each of our schools to the Tafaigata Landfill. Going to the landfill may sound like a stinky, unpleasant place to go to for a field trip – and it was – but the kids learned about waste management, recycling, and water treatment. Living on a 430 square mile bit of land, 131.5 times smaller than the state of New York, you would expect that it does not take very long to get anywhere. Alas, it takes quite a while to get anywhere.

Should be 4 R’s. Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The trip commenced with a final check that the students were wearing shoes of some variety, and an hour and fifteen minute ride in a taxi van. The kids were excited just to be in a car for that long. Thankfully, none of our kids got sick. The vans are not the smoothest rides in the world and can leave passengers hunched over on the side of the road. (Another Peace Corps Volunteer took her kids on this field trip and four of them threw up in the van on the way there.)

Powerpoint Confusion

Upon arrival we were brought into the office of the Waste Management Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, which was pleasantly air conditioned… unlike the van. We listened and learned mostly in Samoan to ensure student comprehension. Yasuko, however, seemed to be a little lost in the presentation. The main point of the presentation was the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

1000’s of years

There was also an activity where the students learned how long it takes for things we throw away to decay into the ground. Do you know how long it takes a plastic bottle to decay? Not in your lifetime, or your kids, or their kids. Decay STARTS around 1,000 years… enough said. The kids were shocked and intrigued at the same time. At the end of the presentation, we took a ride to the actual landfill to see the gas vents and all manner of disgust that lived there.

For all you landfill nerds out there (Karen’s mother in particular), both landfills in Samoa are very high tech. They use the Fukuoka Method. This method, developed by the Japanese, allows airflow underneath the landfill and into the garbage. Because of the airflow, bacteria are able to digest aerobically, producing carbon dioxide as a waste product rather than methane. A short walk brought us to the leachate pond. They were very happy with how well it works and were doubly proud to announce that they have found no traces of heavy metals such as mercury in it… yet.

A Leachate Pond

The leachate pond is simply a place where the runoff from the landfill goes to. Nothing sinister, like the sludge pond. A sludge pond works something like this. A truck backs up to the concrete ramp, opens a valve, and out comes the, you guessed it, shit. To insinuate that these trucks only drop off human shit would be an exaggeration. Their deposits also contain urine, vomit, decaying toilet paper, the islands’ manufacturing waste liquids, and anything else that ends up flushed down the toilet like your dead pet fish.

A “shit” truck

A shitty pond

The result looks like this. I am sad to say that due to current technological constraints, you cannot share in the repugnance which we endured. From there, we visited a medical incinerator, which is little more than a giant furnace in a small shack and then it was off to the recycling center. The kids especially loved the industrial-sized digital scale. Everyone weighed themselves, then a few at a time and then all together. We learned that you could call the recycling yard to come and pick up your recycling – but they charge you to come and get it. So remind me why no one on the island has ever heard of recycling? Lunch was provided after a quick review and wrap up. Then it was back to our neck of the woods. In the end, I like to let the children decide whether the trip was worth it or not. This is what they had to say. Field trip two complete for both schools, bringing us up to three total. We will post soon about Karen’s fourth trip to the National Energy Awareness Day and spelling bee.

Yes !


You can follow Karen’s  journey in Samoa through her blog Karen and Dave In Samoa