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Garbage Landfill, 1987

Photo: Garbage Landfill

A garbage truck dumps its load at a U.S. landfill. More than 70 percent of the 180 million tons of refuse Americans throw away each year ends up in landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Compacted repeatedly by bulldozers, the inner recesses of landfills receive no light, air, or moisture, making biodegradation impossible. Scientists have even found hotdogs buried in 1974 still intact 15 years later.

(Text adapted from and photograph shot on assignment for, but not published in, "Once and Future Landfills," May 1991, National Geographic magazine)

Photograph by Dennis Finley

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Photo Tip of the Week

Long Exposures

When making long exposures, use a remote release to avoid camera movement. If you don't have a remote release, use the camera's self-timer.

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