Professional Garbologist

Professional Garbologist


14 Years Experience

Harrisburg, PA

Female, 48

No, really, I am a state employee working in our Environmental Protection program. I have worked in the Waste Management program for nearly fifteen years. I have looked at the waste handling practices from about any type of facility you can think of, from food producers to hospitals to plating shops, and where the waste goes, like incinerators and landfills. My days are rarely dull, as I supervise ten inspectors and am usually the regulatory tie-breaker. My ideal day is a day in the field.

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29 Questions


Last Answer on November 05, 2019

Best Rated

Has anyone showed up to a landfill asking to search it for an engagement ring or something valuable they threw out?

Asked by estudia9 almost 8 years ago

Not that I have ever heard. I think by that point it would be way too late! It would be so mixed in with everything else that was placed that day it would be your "needle in a haystack" situation. I have, however, seen escorted loads of valuable or proprietary items going to the landfill for a "witnessed" disposal.

What happens when the police search a garbage dump for evidence or a body? Is there any sort of record of what piles came from what pick-up locations?

Asked by longh0rns about 8 years ago

Unfortunately (or fortunately I think), I have not been on that type of search. Very tragic. Here in PA, landfills are required to track the waste coming in each day on a grid. So if it can be narrowed down to a span of days, a certain section of the grid could be searched. We would also know what type of waste came from where. This record-keeping is required by regulation.

I was fascinated by the scenes in the garbage dump at the end of Toy Story 3. Did you see it, and is that what really happens (with the huge magnet, and the incinerator?)

Asked by erin8 about 8 years ago

Usually the magnet comes after the incineration. Easier to get at the metals that way, after the burn. Don't usually see a dump associated directly with an incinerator.

A couple years ago I read a report that basically said recycling is a complete waste of time, in that it actually winds up costing way more than it's worth. Agree/disagree?

Asked by Shana AZ about 8 years ago

Depends on the material. The glass market has been pretty bad for about 25 years. Very little price change, but at least folks are starting to get creative and are starting to use it for different building materials. Its still cheaper to manufacture glass from raw materials than to recycle. 1&2 plastics, cardboard, and certain e-wastes seem to be up in demand right now. These seem to be paying for themselves many times over.

Have you ever seen this clip from the show Jackass? (Think it was shot in PA, ironically). They call it the "Poo Dive", but do you have any idea what might actually be in the water he jumps into? (Start the clip at 1 min 35 sec)

Asked by mike almost 8 years ago

I'm guessing its full-on poo...

Is there a point where we'll run out of landfills, and where would the trash go then?

Asked by junkyard dog almost 8 years ago

Due to public opposition in a lot of permitting attempts, I think that the use of landfills will eventually come to an end. They are finite facilities, with only a certain amount of property and allowable heights that must be conformed to under their permits. Incinerators are probably the next best choice. The technology has improved over the years, so the operation is becoming more efficient. Many generate electricity directly to the grid. The issue is what to do with the ash. I have yet to hear of a great use, and it is usually landfilled. I have read about plasma incineration, and know that there are a few facilities in an experimental capacity out there. The ones I read about produce energy, and due to constant addition to trash, are basically self-perpetuating, not needing an outside fuel for more than start-up. These produce an obsidian-type glass as a waste product. I am hoping never to see ocean disposal ever again...

What makes a type of garbage right for incineration versus getting tossed in a landfill?

Asked by Rob-E almost 8 years ago

Typically it is only municipal (or household-type trash) that goes to an incinerator. It is usually pretty dry and is small enough to easily move to the conveyors from the floor. It is difficult to deal with large items there. We are not dealing with waste that could ultimately contribute to air quality violations. Technology is getting better, but I think we could make some improvements. Landfills, due to their construction and management are suited to handle not only the household waste, but also bulky items and waste from non-hazardous industrial processes. A lot of the waste must go through approvals prior to acceptance so that it is in compliance with the permit. Tires, liquids, yard waste, and hazardous wastes are not allowed.