15 Oct 2020

We all throw away an incredible amount of items every single day, but have you ever stopped to think about where the trash goes after you have thrown it in the garbage or dumpster?

Whenever you do garbage at home and take out the trash, this is not the end of the story for food waste, household items, and other perishable items. The same can be said for dumpster garbage, as once it has been thrown in the dumpster, the rental company will come to take it somewhere else.

The truth of the matter is, your trash can go in one of many places depending on how you choose to dispose of it and the waste management systems in your area.

How Do We Get Rid Of Trash?

There are various ways that you can choose to get rid of trash.

Depending on the kind of waste that you are getting rid of, you probably have separate waste management systems in place. You may just throw it in the trash can for some kinds of waste, or it may need to be recycled if it is an item like glass, plastic, or aluminum.

The recycling rates can differ based on your state, so the items that you can recycle may vary based on these factors.

Like solid waste or hazardous items, other kinds of trash have separate waste management systems that you need to abide by to dispose of these responsibly.

If you are working on a large home clear out project, then your regular trash can will not cut it. This is why renting a dumpster is a great option, as this is a larger container that you can use to dump the garbage into so it will be taken to landfills by the rental company.

Landfills are the most popular destination for solid waste, and in most states, this kind of waste management trumps any other by a wide margin.

Most of the waste in the United States goes go to the dump trash sites, but this is not the only option.

Where Does Trash Go First?

When you first throw away trash, and it is taken away by the Department of Public Works, where does it go then?

Any solid waste, materials, or other kinds of garbage go in the waste bin, and it will make a few stops before it reaches its final destination. These include:

1) Transfer Stations

This is a temporary location for most municipal solid waste and is the location where garbage trucks can drop off their load. This is where solid waste is compacted and is prepared for transfer to another stop on the way.

The compacted solid waste is then added to larger trucks for transfer.

2) Material Recovery Facilities

These facilities are where the waste stream is separated into useful or recyclable materials before being moved on.

There are two kinds of material recovery facilities in the United States – clean and dirty.

In clean MRFs, recyclables that have already been organized by homes and business are sorted into useful materials. This is where projects like waste to energy can take place, as certain materials can be transformed from waste to energy.

In dirty MRFs, recyclable materials are separated and processed from the trash. This is a part of the waste management process that requires a lot of manual labor. In some state of the art MRFs, technologies can be used to separate recyclable materials from municipal solid waste, like magnets, shredders, and current separators which can be used to find ferrous and non-ferrous waste.

Where Does Trash End Up?

After the trash has been organized, it is taken to one of the following sites where it will be dumped, recycled, or used in waste to energy projects.

  • Landfills

Most of the waste that comes from homes in the United States will end up in a landfill.

There are more than 3,000 active landfills in the US, and over 50% of all trash ends up in these locations. A landfill is a piece of land that has been holed out specifically for trash and waste to be dumped in it.

Waste that ends up in a landfill will only be stored, not broken down. This is because landfills are made up of layers, each lined with clay, and are covered in flexible plastic to keep the waste underground. Landfills also feature drains and pipes in each layer that collects the contaminated fluid that is created by garbage.

Once a layer is full of waste, it will be topped with another layer of plastic, and soil will be added to the top.

While waste in a landfill will decompose over time, this is one of the slowest processes as landfills are an oxygen-free environment.

  • Recycling Facilities and Composters

While most of the waste in the US goes to landfill, approximately 35% of municipal solid waste ends up in either a recycling facility or composters.

Both of these facilities share the goal of trying to reuse as much waste as possible into new products.

These two facilities focus on different aspects of waste, as recycling centers commonly deal with materials like glass, paper, plastics, and aluminum, whereas composters deal with food and agricultural waste, which makes compost.

Recycling has started to slow down in recent years, which is something a lot of major cities in the US are trying to combat with new recycling initiatives.

  • Incinerators

The incinerators that deal with waste are huge, industrial furnaces that are designed to burn municipal solid waste.

This kind of waste management deals with around 12.8% of all waste in the country.

The furnaces used in these facilities need to burn at a constant 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit to turn all kinds of waste into ash. This makes it one of the most effective forms of reducing waste, as it can reduce all forms of material by 95%.

This will dramatically decrease the amount of landfill space that is needed for all waste.

  • Anaerobic Digesters

This is another form of waste to energy conversion and is a biological process.

This biological process uses microorganisms to turn organic waste materials into energy and fertilizer, giving them a second purpose.

It takes place in large tanks that are known as anaerobic digesters, which are most commonly found on farms where organic waste is plentiful. Here the waste to energy process is in high demand and is an effective way of recycling materials that would otherwise go to landfill.

What Is The Trash Future?

The way we do things is constantly changing, and no doubt, the same can be said for our waste management processes.

At the moment, the majority of the waste we throw away will end up in landfill, which comes with a lot of negative impacts on the environment. While this is the current process for waste, this is predicted to change throughout the 21st century.

Recycling facilities and waste to energy centers are being more cost-effective, and this is happening at the same time that many cities around the country are setting zero waste goals. The future of waste will likely have more of a focus on recycling to give materials a second life.

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