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A Day at the Landfill - A SWANA Scholarship Application Essay

September 29, 2022 by Olivia Ozbolt

As a way of recognizing some of the outstanding scholarship applications nominated to SWANA by our Chapters across the United States and Canada, we are posting applicants’ one-page essays on our blog. The essay, which was 10 percent of their application score, was to speak to the role solid waste management plays in addressing an environmental issue currently in the news. We asked, “What are the responsibilities of individuals who generate the waste versus the professionals tasked with managing the waste?”

The following essay was submitted by Olivia Ozbolt, who applied for the Grant H. Flint Scholarship. She will be attending University of Maryland in the fall with a planned major in Finance.


For the first eight years of my life, my dad’s job was a mystery. I knew that he worked at a landfill, which was the extent of my knowledge. One evening, he asked me: "Olivia, would you like to go to work with m next week? It’s ’Bring your Child to Work Day at my job."’ Excitedly, I agreed to attend the event. You see, I can never resist the chance to spend time with my dad. Any field trip made me ecstatic. Unbeknownst to me, this would be my first introduction to the solid waste industry: surely an illuminating experience.

On a beautiful, late April morning I arrived at the landfill. First, my dad gave us a tour of the Residents’ Convenience Center. This designated area accepts unlimited recyclable, residential waste, electronics, mattresses, cooking oil, hazardous waste, and food scraps from county residents. During my tour, I peered into multiple residential waste dumpsters. Amazed at the dumpster’s contents, I saw board games, toys, bikes, sporting equipment, and various recyclable items. I asked, “Why did people throw away all this good stuff? Can we rescue it?” I saw a toy that I had seen in a commercial just a few months ago. My dad advised me that people throw away perfectly usable stuff all the time, just because they don’t have the time or energy to find a good home for their unwanted items. People don’t realize that their trash still takes up space inside a landfill. It doesn’t simply “disappear.”

This answer has stuck with me through the years and affected my perception of what really goes on at landfills. He taught me that in order to leave less of a footprint on the environment, we need to dispose of garbage in a more responsible fashion. In my future career, I hope to promote sustainable practices and spread the word about responsible garbage disposal techniques.

Learn more about our scholarship winners in our recent newsletter article.

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