I briefly thought about getting a PhD once and then I looked at the math portion of the GRE Review book and decided to come to the Pole. Sometimes, when I am standing in front of our labyrinth of recycling triwalls, I think I made the wrong decision.
The South Pole Trash Matrix (oh yes, that is its official name) is two pages long with 17 recycling options, not including the “Special” category. Just a few of the recycling options offered are: mixed paper, paper towels, CRT (cathode ray tube waste), plastic, wood, medical/sanitary, and ferrous metal – heavy or light.
Everything that is brought into the pole is shipped out**, and that includes all of our trash, but first it must be seperated and boxed. Then it is sent to McMurdo to be processed, which is one reason it is so important to have it seperated correctly. One broken steak knife in the mixed paper bin could cause enormous grief for one unsuspecting Wastie in McMurdo.
Working in the Waste Department is an arduous job. First, you have to make sure people have all the recycling resources they need. Such as well marked triwalls, which if you have ever tried to assemble a 100 cube triwall in the dark when it is wicked windy-without anyone’s help- you will have nothing but endearing respect for a Wastie.
The Waste Department also holds trainings for every department on station, and yet they still had to send an all station e-mail reminding us that chicken bones and ramen do not belong in paper towels. Duh! Chicken bones and ramen are food waste. Read the Matrix people!
It is duly impressive that such a small department- three folks in the summer and one in the winter- are responsible for all the waste on station. Over 200 people are continually making rubbish in the summer, and 50 of us are mucking up the place in the winter.
JonO the awesome Wastie we have here this winter is in charge of packaging rubbish, moving rubbish, and preparing rubbish for shipment, and training everyone on how to sort it correctly, because if you put chicken bones in the paper towels- then someone else has to fix your mess. This is not taking into account the plethora of other rubbish related stuff this department is in charge of. Like Hazardous Waste, oil/glycol/gasoline spills, outhouses (ridiculously called solar outhouses. Trust me, I have used them in the summer and there is not enough solar action happening to keep them warm- we don’t use outhouses in the winter), and that ambiguous “Special” category.
It is dark 24 hours a day now at the South Pole. This makes for wicked cold weather and using the loaders can only happen when it is “warm” enough to not damage their tracks, or engines, or hydraulics. The cutoff temperature for using loaders is minus 70, but the mechanics would prefer it to be minus 65 or warmer. (It is so weird using the word ‘warmer” with the temperature of MINUS 65).
Pop Rubbish Quiz!
1) You have two light bulbs that are broken. Do they go in:
C) Haz Waste
2) Your hiking boots smell too horrid to put in **skua. Do they go in:
A) Haz Waste (they smell really bad)
3) You broke your favorite unicorn ceramic coffee cup. Does it go in:
B) Food Waste
The one I tend to have the worst time with is the paper towels and the mixed paper. The best explanation I ever heard was- if you would want it recycled into a greeting card for your Gramma- then it is mixed paper. If not, then it is paper towels.
All answers are C
*Except our poop. What happens to that is a whole other post.
**Skua is our free Goodwill/Salvation Army/ARC