EDINBURG, Va. (WDVM) — Situated in the Shenandoah County landfill is an unusual strip of land.
Thick black plastic tarp lies in a field of grass, weighed down with tires and pieces of wood. But it’s what’s under the 60 millimeters of plastic that’s of interest to Sari Carp, the founder of Sustainability Matters.
“Sustainability matters, my organization, has partnered with the landfill to do what is literally kind of a groundbreaking project here,” Carp said Tuesday, standing on top of the tarp. “We’re making trash bloom.”
Carp’s organization teamed up with the landfill to pilot the Making Trash Bloom project, an attempt to turn landfills into spaces that are friendly to native pollinator species.
“One of the things that we’re the most concerned about is the lack of habitat for native wildlife, native pollinators, as America really becomes a nation of turf grass,” she said.
Carp explained that normally, trash at landfills is placed into 5-acre pits, which–after several years of being filled with waste–are covered in dirt and sown with grass seed. That space can’t be used for much of anything.
“You can never grow human food on top of the trash, you can never build on top of the trash, you can never plant trees on top of the trash, because you can’t have something that deep rooted,” Carp said. “But the native perennials are perfect because the roots go just the right depth to provide excellent erosion control, but not interfere with the actual trash underneath.”
The plastic tarp set up in the spring is to solarize the soil below, essentially killing off the grass, weeds, and seeds already in the ground. In November, Carp and others will re-seed the plot with the pollinator-friendly plants. Rachel Clark, the administrative assistant at the landfill who has been heavily involved in the project, says in the long run, the bees and butterflies are the only ones benefiting.
“We currently plant grass seed and spend hours mowing,” Clark said. “So we feel this will be lower maintenance and cost-effective for us, as well as better for the environment.”
That plastic has another purpose too. Its original purpose is to separate the trash in the landfill from the earth, and it will do just that come November, when Sustainability Matters rolls it back and returns it to the landfill.
Carp hopes the process will not just beautify the Shenandoah county landfill, but other grassy spaces as well.
“What we’re doing, what we’re standing on right now, you can do at home,” she said. “Anyone can do this.”