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Since 2008 Viridor has sponsored Carymoor Environmental Trust, an independent environmental education charity based next to the Dimmer landfill site near Castle Cary in Somerset.
Carymoor leases 100 acres of capped landfill from Viridor and since 1996 the team at Carymoor has been working to transform the site into a species-rich nature reserve.
The Carymoor team works closely with Viridor staff at Dimmer and other sites and provides a broad environmental education programme to promote sustainable living and to give children a first-hand experience of the natural world. In 2016 Viridor and Carymoor jointly won the Biodiversity Benchmark award which recognised the wildlife value of the site.
Viridor acquired the Dimmer landfill site when it purchased Wyvern Waste in 2006 and has continued to support Carymoor since that time.
Over the last 20 years the site has developed and it provides amazing opportunities for environmental education.
Many schools come to see the working landfill site but also for themed days about wildlife, renewable energy, history and global citizenship.
The site is all about contrasts, from the scale and impact of the tipping face, through to the mature ponds and meadows that support a wonderful array of wildlife. Carymoor shows there is life after landfill.
Rupert Farthing, the chief executive of Carymoor Environmental Trust, shares his memories of his first visit to the Dimmer landfill site in a blog title ‘What Lies Beneath’:
When I first visited the Dimmer landfill site near Castle Cary in 2004, I was struck by the fact that waste my whole family had thrown away, even the things I had tossed aside as a small child, were somewhere beneath my feet. I grew up in a village near Yeovil and anything that had gone into our bin back in the late 70s would have been taken to the Dimmer landfill; broken toys, clothing, old text books from school, worn out shoes, you name it, all would have ended up at the site. And this was long before recycling was a real option.
Landfill sites are time capsules. They capture whatever we do not value as a society at any given point in time. Once a landfill is closed, it’s then capped with 1 to 2 metres of clay and grassed over, sealing in its contents from view.
As you might imagine the rubbish produced in the 1970s was somewhat different to what we produce now.
Paper and board was the main component (around 38%) and only 2% of waste was plastic compared to at least 10% now.
The 70s saw the rise of plastics being used more heavily in manufacturing; plastics became a cheap and easy commodity to use and our use of plastics and other disposal items increased substantially from that point.
Landfill was historically the main option for disposing of waste in the UK up until recycling schemes started in the 1990s. The Dimmer landfill was opened in 1970 on top of what used to be an army ammunitions depot during the Second World War. There are still signs of its previous life, including a circular brick structure once used for burning unwanted incendiary devices which has now become a home to newts and other pond life.
One of the reasons Dimmer was chosen as a landfill site is that there is blue lias clay present. This clay acts as a natural impermeable layer which prevents liquid from the landfill escaping and was commonly used to line landfills in the 2oth century.
The scale of the site and of our past wastefulness is a powerful message and a reminder to us all that we can and need to do better in the future.
When school groups come to Carymoor we talk about the 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – and that is a simple way we can all address the waste issue. Avoid creating waste in the first place, look to reuse things wherever we can and ultimately recycle and compost what waste we do create.
About Carymoor Environmental Trust
Carymoor is a unique Somerset-based charity focused on environmental education, bringing green issues to life all year round. Based on a remarkable site which combines a working landfill site with a beautiful nature reserve, Carymoor provide a wide range of experiences through their sensory and wild flower gardens, replica shanty town, Celtic roundhouse, forest school area and a sustainably built Education Centre.