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Bottle Recycle 911



The purpose of the landfill study is to provide a comparison with data collected at landfills in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Italy since 2001. The goal of the study will inform consumers the volume of plastic bottles entering our landfills even with our current methods not limited to curbside recycling pickup. Ultimately we prolong the life span of our landfills.


The goal of reducing the plastic bottles entering the landfill can be achieved if all consumers are made aware of the problem with rising disposal fees. The costs associated with disposal increases as a result of handling our garbage multiple times. Ultimately, when we are able to prolong the use of our existing landfill space, there will be no need to close the landfill and relocate farther away. Real estate is scarce and nobody wants to live next to a landfill.  


Bottle Recycle 911 began in 2001 as a university project to understand the varied methods of recycling, from curbside pickup to the extreme method of living in the landfill and collecting the bottles by hand. We selected our first landfill located in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on March 25, 2001. Tourism and the consumption of products had a severe impact on the volume of plastic waste. We followed the Mexico method of manually pulling the plastic from the waste stream. 


Mexican families resided within the landfill of Puero Vallarta and developed an impressive and tenacious business of recycling plastic bottles. This experience was rewarding for Bottle Recycle 911 and the Pacific Lutheran University faculty and students, because it showed generations of people, young and old, working hard to recover the plastic bottles for reuse. Due to the lack of recycle methods like curbside pickup, there are more bottles entering the landfill in Puerto Vallarta and Rome, Italy. 


Another landfill in this study was located in Maple Valley, Washington, USA at Cedar Hills. This landfill data collection was done over eight consecutive months beginning March, 2001 and ending October, 2001. Active dumping areas are mapped out and measured 30 feet by 30 feet for a total of 900 square feet with all four corner stakes marked with red. We documented each step in the process and followed methods that were first published by William Rathje, PhD anthropology . However, we did not do any excavation and pulled only the bottles from the surface of the mapped canvas area. Each plastic bottle is identified by type, weight, and brand name. All brand labels were removed and saved. 


Currently, there is approximately 40 million tons of garbage in the Cedar Hills landfill. How much longer can we prolong the use of this landfill when we are not fully aware of the plastic volume taking up space in the landfill? The Cedar Hills Landfill was projected to close in 2012 whereby all garbage would then be transported on rail to another destination yet to be determined. Recent land use plans granted to Cedar Hills Landfill will keep it operating through 2030 if all goes per plan. In addition, changes in disposal methods and new techniques of compacting the garbage have resulted in prolonging the closure date.


During the eight month study period at Cedar Hills Landfill, we collected 27 lbs of plastic bottles. The canvas area remained within active dump zones each month we collected data and we maintained the same method for collecting data at each location. Plastic bottles are difficult to bury, will not biodegrade, and are visible even after being compacted. 


In order to determine the volume of bottles by weight that have been buried since 2001 in the Cedar Hills Landfill, we could use the data to help determine an estimate. We know that 27 lbs of plastic bottles were buried during the eight test periods and if this same result would continue at the same interval until March 31, 2021, the result will be the following: Considering that 3.38 lbs was the average number for each day of the 363 work periods for each year, we also know that the landfill is closed on Christmas and New Years. By multiplying the 3.38 average pounds by the 363 days of operation at the landfill, the annual result within the canvas area is 1,226.94 lbs. 


Since March 31, 2001 through March 31, 2021, we have an estimated 24,538.80 lbs buried in Cedar Hills Landfill canvas area of 900 square feet and 7,260 active landfill work days. 


The following data was accumulated in cooperation with Wayne Bloomingdale  and Regis Costello from Pacific Lutheran University and Bill Gross of Puente Hills Landfill and Nicole Steglish of Vancouver BC Landfill:


Cedar Hills Landfill Maple Valley, Washington, USA 

March 31,       2001  -  24 bottles-  3.25 lbs

April 20,         2001  -  25 bottles-  3.25 lbs

May 15,          2001  -  31 bottles-  3.75 lbs

June 25,         2001  -  36 bottles-  4.0   lbs

July 17,          2001  -  28 bottles-  3.0   lbs

August 17,     2001  -  44 bottles-  3.75 lbs

September 5,  2001  -  31 bottles-  3.5   lbs

October 27,    2001  -  28 bottles-  2.5   lbs


Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

March 25,       2001  -  195 bottles- 25   lbs

August 6,       2005  -    72 bottles-  7   lbs


Puente Hills Los Angeles, California, USA

May 27,          2004  -  85  bottles -  6  lbs


Rome, Italy

July 11,          2001  -  153 bottles- 20  lbs

Vancouver, Canada

March 27,       2010  -   51 bottles - 3.75 lbs




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