Pettit Preserve presents Lifecycle of a Landfill Saturday

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Keep Bartow Beautiful Assistant Director Melissa Phillips will explore the ins and outs of a landfill Saturday at the Pettit Environmental Preserve. 

“We’ve had programs about recycling before and how it helps reduce what goes into the landfill and that is important," said Marina Robertson, executive director for the Pettit Preserve. "But we’ve never talked about why it’s important to extend the life of our landfills with less waste.

“Most of us tend to forget about our trash the moment we put it on the curb — poof, it’s gone. But what we throw away is with us for many generations, even if we don’t see it. Since Melissa Phillips works so much with education for Keep Bartow Beautiful, she seemed the perfect person to teach us about landfills and what happens to our trash in a landfill.”

Ongoing from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the venue’s Lifecycle of a Landfill Program & Hike will feature presentations by Phillips at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. 

“On average, every man, woman and child in the United States generates almost 1,700 pounds of trash each and every year,” Robertson said. “That’s a lot of trash. Most people think that trash in the landfill decomposes, but in order to keep from poisoning our water and soil, landfills have to be as waterproof as possible and landfills are capped when they are full.

“In that environment, a plastic trash bag can take 1,000 years to decompose. Although there are regulations on what can go in landfills, toxic chemicals still leach out of the trash and have to be collected by a special system to prevent groundwater contamination. Even food scraps, which you would think would break down easily, can take decades to break down. So our trash is going to be around not just for generations but possibly hundreds of years.”

Situated off Ga. Highway 61 on the Bartow/Paulding county line, the preserve was formed as a private, nonprofit corporation — The Margaret and Luke Pettit Environmental Preserve Inc. — in 1999 when the late Gay Pettit Dellinger and her children initially donated 60 acres.

During the program, Phillips will provide an overview of the science behind a landfill — chemistry, engineering, geology and hydrology.

“It might sound yucky but a sanitary landfill is made from a recipe,” Phillips said. “A recipe that makes a garbage containment parfait. And, just like in a parfait, all the layers matter. Each layer is intended to sit upon the other without a lot of interaction. Unlike a parfait however, you wouldn't want to spoon it up and introduce oxygen.

“That's the whole purpose of a sanitary landfill, to prevent oxygen from mixing with what's been buried. Because oxygen is pretty much depleted from the recipe, pretty much nothing should be happening. It should produce a kind of time capsule effect.”

Open to the general public during scheduled programs, the 70-acre Pettit Preserve consists of various trails developed by Switchbacks Trail Design & Construction, a lake, three amphitheaters, self-contained composting toilets, two aquatic stations and a Learning Shed.

More than 23,000 patrons have visited the venue or received outreach through its programs since the site opened in 2006. In honor of its educational efforts, Pettit Environmental Preserve captured the 2018 Riverkeeper Outdoor Recreation Award from the Coosa River Basin Initiative March 28.

Through Saturday’s program, Robertson hopes attendees will further understand the importance of recycling.

“Landfills are expensive to build and maintain, so anything we can do to extend the life of our landfill saves money as well as helping the environment,” she said. “Some studies show that as much as 40-50% of what is in landfills are paper waste products, which could without too much trouble be diverted to recycling facilities.

“The city of Cartersville has free curbside pickup of paper, cardboard, aluminum, tin and plastic (1 & 2) and any county resident can drop off any of those items along with many other recyclable items at any of the trash collection sites in Bartow. You may not be able to recycle everything, but everyone can do something to reduce the amount of trash going to the landfill and every bit helps.”

Free to Pettit Preserve members, Saturday’s program will cost $3 per person, with a maximum $10 fee per family.

“In addition to the program, we hope visitors will hike one of the preserve’s trails, 95% of which are heavily shaded,” Robertson said. “The trails are also gently sloped so they are perfect for families and folks not accustomed to hiking.

“We also have a picnic shelter on the lake and visitors are welcome to bring a lunch to enjoy by the lake. We also welcome leashed dogs as they enjoy a nice hike in nature too.”

For more information, visit www.pettitpreserve.org or contact Robertson at director@pettitpreserve.org or 678-848-4179.