Inside your landfill
I met Mathieu Young after discovering his GOOD magazine recycling slideshow. Intrigued with this piece and impressed by his photography, I emailed him and we met up in Los Angeles to discuss the two things we have in common: photography and trash. I later discovered that we have a lot more in common than that, he’s from NorCal where I currently live and we’re both U.C.L.A. alums.
Mathieu and I talked about his work on the slideshow and last week I was delighted to receive an email with extra photos from his excursion! These were never before published photos that he took of the adjacent landfill completely out of curiosity. He’s written an eye-witness account of the experience and I’ve posted it below the slideshow I put together of his Simi Valley landfill images.
“My fascination with the landfill started when my cousin and I were remodeling an apartment building in LA. We spent many a Saturday dropping off truckload after truckload of construction debris, and I always loved the visual of the dump. This was just a sorting center though, and it always made me wonder what the trash’s final home looked like.
When I finally made it out to the Simi Valley landfill, where the trash is buried in tiered mountains lined in plastic (to eliminate leeching) and then replanted with the native ground cover, I was surprised by how pastoral some parts were. You don’t go to a landfill expecting to see flowers and owls and cows grazing.
Waste Managment, the private company that runs this site, is actually doing some innovative things, including capturing the natural gasses created by the decomposition to power the site and their LNG vehicles, bringing in owls to control the rat populations instead of spraying chemicals, and making a concerted effort to keep some level of harmony with the native habitats by replanting ground covers.
But, then you arrive at the drop-off and sorting hubs, and the sights, sounds and smell instantly remind you what a wasteful society we’ve become, and that no matter how good we get at burying our trash, we really just need to produce less of it.”