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Marketplace (March 17–20, 2005)

Briar Bentley

Health and Mystical Markets

Landis Bennett

After the Marketplace

Central Landfill, Sonoma County, California, USA

17 March 2005 - 14:20 PST

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© 2005 Landis Bennett, All Rights Reserved.



The Central Landfill of Sonoma County is the site of my contribution to the Marketplace theme. There are many different marketplaces, both literal and figurative, that come to mind for this theme, but one thing that I kept coming back to: where does everything go?

Modern humans are a very consumer-oriented species with citizens of the United States as the global leaders in consumption. I go to a big box warehouse and purchase a small Compact Flash card for my camera and it comes encased in a plastic package that could literally hold 1,000 of these memory cards. I come home from the market and use the product or the food and put the packaging in the recycling bin or the trash. Once a week I wheel my refuse out to the curb where a series of trucks come and pick it up - one for trash, one for recycling, one for yard waste. But where does it go after that?

In Sonoma County, the Central Landfill just north of my home-town of Petaluma, has been the main location for that refuse for a long time. The hill in the distance in front of the tractor-trailer (about 90° left of the opening view) actually used to be a valley!

There have been many improvements over the years in waste disposal. As we learn more about our environment, methods are introduced to better coexist and limit the negative impacts of this necessary byproduct of our consumer-driven society. The first 'pile' started at the lowest spot in an easy-to-access area where garbage could be 'disappeared'. There was no consideration for lining the pit or worrying about groundwater or where runoff goes. Now the active section of the landfill is lined by plastic sheets that collect water that runs through the garbage and other 'leachate' which is then taken to a wastewater treatment facility.

The old pile has wells all over it that pull up both the leachate and methane. The methane is taken to an on-site co-generation plant where it is converted to 8 megawatts of electricity (enough for 8,000 homes) and is used to power the buildings on site and even feed power back into the California electricity grid.

'Waste Diversion' is the buzz phrase at the county landfill. There is a large recycling and reuse area on site called 'Recycletown'. You can drop off items that can be reused and it will be sorted and resold at a small cost. Numerous sizable recycling bins are always in use. Appliances are processed for recycling and proper disposal, they are not dumped directly into the landfill. Yard waste and construction debris are processed and resold as mulch. In general, they attempt to keep as much out of the actual landfill as possible.

With this submission to the World Wide Panorama I am not attempting to make a statement or a judgement of our society, I am merely seeking to remind all of us to consider what happens to those things that we pay others to take away from our homes and businesses. Please remember to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle whenever possible.

Special thanks to Clyde Galantine for the very informative personal tour that he gave me of a place that is just behind the hills, but out of the minds of many of us.
More panoramas from my day at the Sonoma County Landfill.

360Geographics - Panoramas from all over North America of tourist destinations and places off the beaten path.


USA-Canada / USA-California

Lat: 38° 18' 0" N
Long: 122° 45' 0" W

Elevation: 240 ft

→ maps.google.com [EXT]

Precision is: Unknown / Undeclared.


Hardware: Nikon D100, Nikkor 10.5mm Lens, Kaidan QuickPan III Spherical
Software: Kekus PanoTools Plug-ins, RealViz Stitcher, Photoshop CS, Enblend, CubicConverter, QT Player Pro, VRPrep

Behind the scene : how this panorama was made

When Don and I decided on the theme of Marketplace, I thought that a really neat location would be one that was very difficult to photograph: the Online Marketplace. Then I remembered that eBay calls itself "The World's Online Marketplace". Since eBay is located in the San Francisco Bay Area I hoped that I could photograph their server room to show what the online marketplace looks like 'from the street' so to speak. Unfortunately eBay makes it notoriously difficult to contact any real people who can grant permission like this. A letter and email sent over a month before the event went unanswered and backup plans had to be formulated.

There are plenty of real marketplaces in the Bay Area, but there are also plenty of VR photographers. There's a great grocery co-op in Berkeley called Berkeley Bowl (Patrick Cheatham). There's a farmer's market that takes place in the recently renovated Ferry Building at the end of Market Street in San Francisco (Don Bain). There's a busy flower market also in San Francisco (Kat Kalamaras, Lee Nelson). And there's even a farmer's market that happens every Saturday at the end of my driveway (!) but it doesn't start for another two months.

There are still plenty of great marketplaces in my area, but rain began to threaten for the whole weekend of the WWP. I thought about perhaps some of the larger box-stores in my area and that's when huge parking lots full of cars and the packaging on my latest Compact Flash card caught my attention. That and Thursdays are the day that the garbage is wheeled to the curb on my street. I decided to head up to the local landfill and see if anything caught my eye.

The landfill had changed a bit since I'd last been there about ten years ago. We used to just drive our pick-up truck down to the edge of the landfill (the 'tipping apron', I've learned) and push the stuff out the back and over the edge. Now they make residents weigh their pick-up trucks both coming and going to calculate how much to charge and unload at a 'tipping building'. Since you can dump any recycling for free and the recycling bins are between the entrance and the tipping building, it gives you an incentive to lighten the load a bit and send less to the landfill.

I went to the administration building and explained a little about the WWP and what I wanted to take pictures of. Luckily, a geologist experienced in giving tours to all kinds of people interested in the business was available and happy to oblige. Clyde took me all over the landfill site, patiently answered my questions, and explained all about what happens at the Central Landfill of Sonoma County. I donned a reflective vest and hard hat and went to the top of the old landfill, saw some of the methane and leachate pumps closeup, drove by the yard waste recycling areas, was introduced to the new pit that may be used in the future if the landfill keeps operating, drove by the leachate pools, the co-generation plant, 'Recycletown', the tipping building, and the tipping apron. The panorama that I submitted was the one taken on the tipping apron because it most represents to me what a landfill is, but I was definitely shown that a 'Disposal Site' is so much more than just a 'Landfill'.

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