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“I Am Joe’s Garbage”

Featured Photo from “I Am Joe’s Garbage”

A trash’s-eye-view of perhaps Seminole County’s most underrated facility

Where, oh where, does your kitchen trash go? Inspired by the “I Am Joe’s (insert body part here)” series that ran in Reader’s Digest during the 1970s, here is a look at the Solid Waste Authority’s Central Transfer Station on county road 419 in Longwood and the crucial role it plays in the daily life of Seminole County residents.

The place where I’m about to go treats 400,000 tons of garbage and 55,000 tons of yard waste each year. And it does such a good job, it comes up smelling like roses. I should know, I am Joe’s garbage, and his recyclables, too.

It’s pickup day, and Joe removes me from the kitchen trash bin, ties my string in a double knot, which I appreciate, drops me in the garbage can, and wheels me to the curb. Alongside me are the green recycling bins for paper products and glass bottles and cans. Joe doesn’t give me a second thought as he drives off to work, and that’s OK. He doesn’t have to because Seminole County’s Solid Waste Management Division does the rest.

“Some people think their trash goes to a magic hill and disappears, but there’s a lot involved,” says program coordinator Lisa Rubino. She’s really nice, and she’s worked at the Central Transfer Station in Longwood for a very long time. Getting to see her twice a week is a treat.

After a short wait at the curb, my garbage truck arrives, and I’m tossed into the back for the ride to the Central Transfer Station itself. You meet all kinds of interesting people’s trash along the way. On this day, I see Mr. Miller is back on his diet judging by the plethora of reduced-calorie frozen dinners in his trash. And based on the empty dog food cans in the Fergusons’ green, apple-scented sack, they finally got that golden retriever they were talking about.

It’s getting snug here in the truck, and that means we’ll soon be dumped at the Central Transfer Station. After stopping at the gate, the truck is weighed on a large scale and then the truck dumps its load inside the facility.

The transfer station was built in 1992. As the name implies, the trash is transferred here from the trucks to tractor trailers for the haul to the landfill in Geneva.

Oh, you should see the landfill. It’s like Woodstock, Burning Man, Coachella, and New Orleans Jazz Fest all rolled into one. Except, you know, for garbage. I digress.

Like I said, Lisa has worked at the transfer station for 19 years. She doesn’t even hear the Boom, Boom, Boom of trash being compacted anymore. Like someone who lives near train tracks, she’s gotten used to it.

The same can’t be said, I’m afraid, for the pungent odors at the transfer station that come from me and my friends. It’s not my fault. I mean, it’s who I am, but I do feel bad on occasion. Like in 2006 when Lisa was pregnant. That was rough. Her morning sickness got a lot worse when she arrived at work each day.

“Fortunately, everything turned out okay,” she says. She has three young sons. They come by every now and then. I            like them.

Once my friends and I are loaded into the tractor trailer, we’ll make the 20-mile trip to the landfill. But wait. Something’s up. There’s a change of plans. My truck is dumping us in an open space, away from the rest of Longwood’s and Sanford’s and Lake Mary’s trash...

Oh, wow! You’re never going to believe this. A young couple is here, and they think they might have accidentally thrown out a wedding ring. They’re asking to look through the garbage to find it. This certainly isn’t the first time something like this has happened. And yes, the staff at the Central Transfer Station does let folks look through garbage to find valuables. They’ll even help the customer pinpoint what truck their bag is on and where in the truck the bag from their house might be, but c’mon, it’s never going to work. I mean, it’s even worse than a needle in a... What? You’re kidding me. No. OMG, they found it. It was in the Stasiak’s trash, next to a dirty diaper. Yikes!

OK, we finally made it to the landfill, and this place is awesome. There’s special piping in the system that allows methane gas to be collected and sold as fuel (I can’t help but point out that I’ve never seen a dime). A leaching system collects runoff garbage juice for treatment at the water plant so it can be used for irrigation and other reclaimed water uses. Very cool!
In about 50 years, this landfill in Geneva will be filled to the top, and right now there are no other sites available in the county. So, Lisa says the best thing we can do is to recycle as much as possible, because the less material that ends up in the landfill, the longer the landfill will be there for us. I don’t want this party to end.

You folks, the ones who so thoughtfully tie those double knots in me and my friends, can help by bringing your household hazardous waste to the Central Transfer Station for disposal or recycling. The facility accepts a wide range of household waste – paint, oil, batteries, electronics, old computers, and televisions. I don’t want to hang out with those things in the regular trash. All they talk about is politics.

“We also have a sharps container program for diabetics,” Lisa says. She’s so helpful. “They can bring the sharps container to the transfer station or any fire department.”

However, the most important thing you can do is put me and my garbage friends on a diet. Lots of cardboard, paper, bottles, and cans still end up in the regular trash when they could be recycled. Right now Seminole County recycles about 48 percent of its trash. Lisa would like that number to reach 50 percent.

“We’re not there yet, but we are striving to get there,” she says.

As the saying goes, they want to see less of me. And that’s all right, because I am Joe’s garbage.

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