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.