Facebook Twitter

TRUCKS DOUBLING AS FOOD HAULERS, GARBAGE CARRIERS
RISK OF CONTAMINATION CALLED GREAT

SHARE TRUCKS DOUBLING AS FOOD HAULERS, GARBAGE CARRIERS
RISK OF CONTAMINATION CALLED GREAT

"It boggles the imagination," Manfred Kroger, professor of food science at Penn State, said last week. "The implications for food contamination are tremendous. It's like shipping milk to Alaska and bringing back oil in the same truck."

Few hard statistics are available on the extent to which food-hauling trucks are doubling as garbage haulers. But at truck plazas on Pennsylvania's Interstate 80, drivers casually swap war stories about hauling meat, cheese, corn flakes and bananas to Eastern cities and heading back to Midwest landfills loaded with 20 or more tons of baled garbage.

During past three weeks, a State College (Pa.) Centre Daily Times reporter and photographer observed and took photographs of many dry vans and refrigerator trucks ("reefers" in trucker jargon) either carrying or being loaded with municipal solid waste at a Pennsylvania transfer station and being unloaded at a large Ohio landfill.

Refrigerator trailers, with their ribbed, stainless steel floors and hard plastic sides, normally carry meat, poultry, dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables to market. Dry vans carry a wide variety of cargo, including - many times - things like cereals, canned goods, potato chips, soda, paper products and disposable diapers.

"Neither one should be carrying garbage," said a 28-year-old trucker from Indiana who asked not to be identified. "Reefers seem worse because they carry fresh food. When you unload them at landfills, the fumes just belch out of the back when they open the doors. It's enough to make you not want to eat."

Truckers and solid-waste industry representatives say the practice of backhauling garbage in dry and refrigerator vans is growing because of a couple of factors:

-An almost complete lack of government or other regulations.

-The unrelenting escalation of the East Coast garbage stream; a declining number of disposal sites; and the resulting enormous demand for trucks - any trucks - to haul the trash westward to willing landfills.

Trucking association officials claimed to have no knowledge of the practice. But drivers say company dispatchers have been routinely steering them to solid-waste transfer stations in places like Jersey City, Philadelphia, Allentown and Bloomsburg, Pa., for the past year or two.