Where does the trash go

Often times, we throw out trash without much regard for where it goes. Knowing and understanding more about this mysterious process might make you think a little more before you take out the trash. The life cycle of your trash starts from the moment you take it out to the curb or the dumpster.


Trash is defined as anything that is normally discarded from a home or business. Most household waste goes to a landfill, some is recycled, and an even smaller portion is composted.








Image via Tech Alive


Transfer Station

First, your trash is hauled off by your waste management provider and taken to a municipal transfer station. The transfer station is where workers sort out the various recyclable materials before the trash is transported to its final destination. About 70% of trash is recyclable in some way, therefore about 30% goes directly to its final destination: the landfill.


Dumpster in landfill


Landfills are typically located in an area where clay deposits and natural land features will prevent the waste from contaminating the natural environment.  Recyclable materials such as plastic, paper, glass, and food waste are not supposed to go to landfills; therefore they are separated to save space. Solid, non-hazardous waste is disposed of in landfills. The waste in a modern landfill is all compacted, and then spread in layers separated by a layer of earth.  People often confuse the landfill with the dump. Modern landfills are carefully managed for environmental impacts, while dumps are unregulated and dangerous.


Some landfills have compost piles, where food can decompose through aerobic decomposition. This involves the use of worms and other living organisms. Composting not only saves space, but also reduces the emission of methane gas into the environment.



Dumps used to be the go-to for waste disposal. Dumps were simply large holes or quarries where people would come and dispose of any waste they had, often containing hazardous chemicals. Dumps are now illegal, and outdated landfills that are utilized as dumps are being closed down due to their negative and irresponsible effects on the environment.



An incinerator is a large machine used to burn waste until it is reduced to just ash. Some argue that incinerators simply pollute the air with hazardous waste, while others argue that it helps keep the volume of trash lower at landfills.














Image via ProCal



Does your city or waste management provider have you put all of your recyclables into one bin? If so, then you have what is called a “single stream recycling” system. This system allows all recyclable materials to be placed on a conveyer belt, where paper and cardboard products are taken out for processing. Next, giant magnets are used to remove metal items such as iron, tin, and steel.  The next stage involves an “eddy current”. This tool causes aluminum items, such as soda cans, to shoot away from the remaining glass and plastic products. All items are now separated by material, allowing them to be sent to the proper facilities for recycling where they are used to make new materials and products. Recycling is the most efficient method of waste management.


The journey of your waste is a long and efficient process. From the moment you throw something away, your waste management provider starts the long process to find the waste’s eventual resting place. It is your responsibility to do your part in reducing waste so that we can lessen the amount of trash that ends up in landfills. Always remember, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!










Image via EcoPack


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