DELPHOS — Growing up as children, I think it’s safe to say that most of us had our parents asking us to “take out the trash” as one of our unwanted chores. For St. John’s Lego students, trash has their undivided attention.
The students of the St. John’s sixth- and seventh-grade Lego teams are registered with First Lego League (FLL) as part of their curriculum. In the FLL, they participate in competitions not only with the robots they create, but also through a themed “project.” This year, the theme and challenge is the TRASH TREK Project. The students need to identify a problem dealing with trash, come up with an innovative solution and communicate the problem and solution with others. One of the ways they can delve into the trash topic is by talking to experts on the subject. That is why Allen County Refuse General Manager Dan Mathias and Operations Manager Brent Ward visited students and enlightened them on waste management.
Mathias and Brett Ward discussed how ACR handles the process and pitfalls of trash and waste management in society today. ACR picks up the garbage and brings it to a transfer station in Lima where it is loaded into a semi-truck trailer and then hauled to a landfill. Mathias and Ward educated the students on when, in the mid-1990s, the U.S. was running out of landfill space there was a big movement and push for recycling.
They continued to say that it would be these Lego students and their generation that will need to be smarter with recycling. In our country, more than 40 million newspapers are printed on a daily basis. If no newspapers were recycled, half a million trees would be thrown into a landfill every day. In New York City, there are no landfills within the city and they generate 23,000 tons of trash per day. Due to location and lack of access to landfills, some New York garbage is shipped to a landfill in Fostoria. He also informed students that the biggest strain on landfills is plastic water bottles. They are not biodegradable so plastic water bottles have shown to be a struggle for the environment.
Despite the fact that country is running out of landfill space, technology has helped out in waste management. The ACR truck drivers have to have a CDL license and use a computer on their truck to track any problems as well as their route. The average truck can collect from 500 homes a day. As a one-man operation, it takes eight seconds to pick up a container, dump it into the truck and set the container back down. A good driver can take care of 1,000 dumps in a day.
They also provided statistics and information for the students that they never knew before, for instance, the city of Delphos (2,500 homes) produces nine tons of garbage a day; one ACR truck alone costs $402,000; and one ACR truck can hold 500 houses worth of garbage. The students were able to see an ACR truck in person and witness the capabilities it has to manage the community’s waste.
Mathias and Ward challenged the students: it is up to them and their generation to make a difference, to change waste into something productive, and to solve the garbage problem. Ultimately, the students have the potential to redefine the phrase of “talking trash” and hopefully, impact our community to step up to the challenge ourselves.