Joy Youwakim grew 20 pounds of food on top of trash — and she might be able to feed about 32,000 people in the future.
“Often when we think of landfills, we just think of piles of trash and waste. But when I saw photos of a closed landfill, I would never have known that there was waste under it,” explained the UT Austin senior. “Often that’s what they’re turned into. And baseball diamonds, stuff like that.
Youwakim worked with the city of Austin, Texas to get permission to grow on a test plot, where soil was about a foot above the trash. She grew radishes, lettuce, cauliflower, green onion, cucumbers, bell peppers, eggplant, and cantaloupe. Despite its environment, the produce seemed to grow better there than in regular soil.
“When I do receive any negative feedback, my first question it to ask people if they know where their produce is sourced anyway? And the majority of the time, people don’t,” she said. “So, if it was grown in a landfill and it is safe to eat, I don’t really see the difference.”
Tests from her produce revealed no signs of salmonella or listeria and only had very small quantities of heavy metals, which could be normal for food. Youwakim says growing healthy food on landfills allows people to take advantage of an otherwise underutilized space, and offers more resources to the hungry masses.