April 7, 2009, Lindtsedijk, Zwijndrecht, the Netherlands

Zwijndrecht's Garbage Plateau

Zwijndrecht's Garbage Plateau

In the background, just behind this peaceful meadow, lies a gigantic garbage plateau, containing my garbage from the years 1965 through 1967. My village got tired of managing its own garbage dump, so it paid the nearby community of Zwijndrecht to take care of it instead. Zwijndrecht was bigger, and it took a more professional approach to its leftovers. After a while, the town started a composting operation, so some portion of my trash ended up on the fields instead of under them.

When I looked at the map, I marveled how I could have grown up here and never noticed the dump. I used to come by here on Sunday bikerides, on the way to the pedestrian ferry across the Oude Maas to Puttershoek. The road down to the ferry landing runs right along the foot of the dump. You’d think it would be impossible to miss. But no, I never saw it. Nobody else in my family ever saw it either. It’s like it wasn’t there.

Zwijndrecht dump, along the Oude Maas

Zwijndrecht dump, along the Oude Maas

Now that I’ve walked around the entire thing as far as I could, it’s a little easier to understand how we managed to overlook it. On the side of the river, you walk right along the edge of the dump, which sticks up a few meters above the dike. It’s weedy and unkempt. A few pheasants scuttle about in the tall grass. A sign says that tresspassers endanger their lives in the quicksand. I’m not about to test that assertion, but I’m not entirely convinced. Quicksand? Sounds like the boogeyman to me.

Anyhow, as a feature in the landscape, it’s a complete bore—the kind of thing you just don’t look at. Which makes for a very clever disguise, like hiding something in plain sight.

How deep down the garbage goes, I have no idea. The horses are some 7 or 8 meters below the surface of the plateau, I would guess. Dumps were often started to fill up a hole, so the trash likely reaches below the level of their hooves. It’s a pretty impressive pile, and still it doesn’t look like anything.


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April 2009
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