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Cedar Hills landfill ‘Mole’ may have inspired sandcrawlers in ‘Star Wars’

The Mole at Cedar Hills. (Photo courtesy of King County)

As you may have heard, single-use plastic bags are menacing communities throughout Washington, but they probably wouldn’t stand a chance against the Mole. Too bad it’s not around anymore.

Highlighted on a Reddit post by u/1ftinfrntoftheother, the Mole was an experimental mobile trash-compactor that may have been the inspiration for the Tatooine sandcrawlers in “Star Wars”. From the r/Seattle sub-Reddit:

TIL about King County’s experimental mobile trash-compactor, affectionately known as ‘The Mole.’ Sold at auction in the early 1970s, the Mole is rumored to have been purchased by George Lucas’s film company and to have served as the model and/or inspiration for the Star Wars Tatooine sandcrawlers.

Back in the 1960s, King County established the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill about 20 miles southeast of Seattle, in an effort to make advances in converting waste to renewable natural gas. They soon developed “The Mole,” a dystopian-looking 150-ton trash compactor that buried garbage as it crawled across the landfill.

Here’s how the giant, much less cute WALL-E worked: Refuse was dumped directly into a hopper, which accepted 100 cubic yards at a time. The hydraulic re-actuated piston exerted 200 pounds per square inch of pressure over its 7-by-7 foot face. This compressed the refuse under 1.5 millions pounds of thrust, and extruded it through the rear of the machine, 15 feet underground, where it was never seen again.

The squeeze is roughly equal to 20 bulldozers, or 12 fully loaded railroad box cars neatly piled on top of the other. “Now that’s a thrust,” the video presenting it says.

While the Mole was a pioneering early foray into efficiently handling waste, it was ultimately found to be ineffective in the soil of Cedar Hills, and was later sold at auction in the early 1970s. That’s where the fun, unsubstantiated rumors begin.

RELATED: Bill proposes statewide ban on single-use plastic bags

According to King County, numerous people believe the Mole was purchased by George Lucas’s film company, and became the inspiration for the giant sandcrawlers in the first “Star Wars” film. As hardcore “Star Wars” fans may recall, the Tatooine sandcrawlers also sucked in scrap waste, and occasionally droids.

It’s not a theory that’s been confirmed by Lucas or any of the droids involved in the film, no matter how much Washingtonians might want it to be true. The Mole could not be reached for comment.

Though the immense 1960s machine is now compacting garbage in the sky, the Cedar Hills landfill is still going strong, taking in refuse from nearly 70 percent of King County residents, and turning it into natural gas provided to upwards of 19,000 homes.

Both versions are below. Do you think we have a case?



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