PART II A Day in the Life of a Wastie at Pole

Waste Management - Spill Response ANTARCTICA

Waste Management – Spill Response
ANTARCTICA

For the most part trash generated at the South Pole is collected in giant cardboard boxes called “triwalls” for their three layer corrugated walls. The triwalls I use come in two sizes: roughly 3.5ft x 3.5ft x 3.5ft (50 cubic feet) and 3.5ft x 3.5ft x 8ft (100 cubic feet) or “50 cubes” and “100 cubes.” These are Ginormous cardboard boxes – like refrigerator boxes for kids I can’t stop thinking about the potential for spaceships and castles. Setting them up alone can be a challenge, but with plenty of practice I’ve figured out a system.

Most of our waste is collected at DZ close to the station, but at -80F or -90F it can be a bit of an adventure just to take a bag or two out. Once a triwall gets full I close it up, band it with metal banding and set up a new one. Some categories such as paper towels, plastic, and food waste fill up faster than other, say electronic scrap which might not get full all winter. We fill maybe 3-5 triwalls a week then they’re taken off to the berms to be stored until summer.

At the colder temps we’ve been having lately (-75F to -90F ambient) I’ve encountered a few more challenges: The flaps crack with a loud pop when I bend them, coming away in my hands…my big marker freezes, ink steaming on the cold cardboard…the plastic liners we put in food waste and sanitary that are nearly stretchy when warm crack and shred…the banding tools slip…

But pictures are worth a thousand words so here you go. These pictures were taken by my friend Tom who’s working in Materials. These were taken almost a month ago when the sun was still above the horizon.

The DZ Waste Line

The DZ Waste Line

Stomping on trash to pack it down - no sense in flying out air

Stomping on trash to pack it down – no sense in flying out air

Folding up the flaps and closing the box with a cargo strap

Folding up the flaps and closing the box with a cargo strap

Banding!

Banding!

Tensioning the banding

Tensioning the banding

The rachet tool

The rachet tool

Labeling is important, even though it fades in the sunlight of summer

Labeling is important, even though it fades in the sunlight of summer

Step7

Threading a cargo strap through the pallet so it's ready for the new triwall

Threading a cargo strap through the pallet so it’s ready for the new triwall

These were taken a few weeks ago as you can see by the sun being up...my supplies (banding, new triwalls, pallets, straps etc) are at DZ too so it's not too far to drag them. Still, they're slipper and heavy.

These were taken a few weeks ago as you can see by the sun being up…my supplies (banding, new triwalls, pallets, straps etc) are at DZ too so it’s not too far to drag them. Still, they’re slipper and heavy.

The 100 cube triwalls are huge and cumbersome.

The 100 cube triwalls are huge and cumbersome.

A giant 100 cube

A giant 100 cube

Lining it up just right on the wood pallet is key - then it's just folding down the flaps.

Lining it up just right on the wood pallet is key – then it’s just folding down the flaps.

Tipping it upright

Tipping it upright

They break off in the super cold, but otherwise it's too tall.

They break off in the super cold, but otherwise it’s too tall.

Step15

A cargo strap holds the triwall to the wood pallet and keeps the flaps down.

A cargo strap holds the triwall to the wood pallet and keeps the flaps down.

Step17

A picture of myself after setting up and banding a few triwalls

A picture of myself after setting up and banding a few triwalls

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2 Comments

Filed under Antarctic, South Pole, Winter

2 responses to “PART II A Day in the Life of a Wastie at Pole

  1. Adel Foz

    Hi Marie,

    Thanks for the posts. I told Bonnie that if it weren’t for the weather, you and your pals would be having a lovely time. I also wondered what “grid 126” means in the weather report.

    I’ll have to ask one of the Wallace, Floyd guys how they handled the trash. I suspect it was less thoughtful than the triwall boxes.

    I envy you seeing the stars in that clear a sky. Best wishes, Adel

    • Hi Adel! Wow, I just saw this comment…sorry for the long long delay in responding! At the South Pole every direction is North, so we use a grid system. It’s quite simple – The Prime Meridian (0/360 longitude), going through Greenwich, England, is “Grid North.” 180 is “Grid South”, “Grid East is 90” and so on. “Grid 126” just means the wind is coming from the direction of longitude 126. Here’s a great site with random information like that: http://passporttoknowledge.com/lfa/QA/computers/Directions,Time,ZIP

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