What Happens to Your Trash?

Have you ever wondered what happens to your trash once you drop it off at the curb?

We’re producing more trash than ever today. In fact, the amount of trash produced in America has tripled since 1960. At the same time, we’ve made strides in recycling and composting efforts. Nearly half of our trash is recycled, composted, or reused in some way. Still, the other half–over 250 million tons of trash per year–remain in landfills. Before all of this trash is recycled or taken to a landfill, however, it goes through quite the journey. Read on to learn more about this process!

What Happens to Your Trash?

Collection and Transfer Station: The first step in your trash’s journey is pickup by garbage trucks. When you roll your trash can down to the curb on pick-up day, one of over 60,000 garbage trucks in the United States picks it up, compacts it, and brings it into a transfer station or material recovery facility. At a transfer station, workers collect your garbage, compact it further, and load it into large trucks. These trucks then transport your garbage to landfills. Material recovery facilities work a little differently, however. These facilities are designed to sort garbage through a system of magnets and shredders in order to recover recyclable material. After passing through a material recovery facility, your garbage ends up in one of three places: a recycling center, waste to energy plant, or landfill.

Recycling and Composting Centers: Recycling and composting centers turn your old waste into new products. Recycling centers repurpose your old paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass, and compost your organic waste. Portland, in particular, does a great job of recycling waste effectively. In fact, Portland recycles or composts over 70% of all of its waste, placing it in the top five best recycling cities! There are several recycling centers throughout the Portland area that work to accomplish this. To find the one nearest you, you can use the find a recycler tool on the Oregon Metro site.

Waste to Energy Plant: Waste to energy plants use large incinerators to burn trash. These furnaces burn at over 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit–hot enough to destroy almost any material! The burning material then generates electricity. The City of Portland has experimented with waste to energy plants in the past. In 2016, they sent 200,000 tons of garbage to a waste to energy plant in Marion County, less than 50 miles south of Portland. However, city officials decided that the juice was not worth the squeeze. Despite the environmental and energy benefits, the program proved costly–so if you live in the Portland area, none of your trash will end up at a waste to energy plant (at least for now)!

Landfill: All trash that doesn’t end up at a recycling/composting center or waste to energy plant ultimately ends up in a landfill. Landfills store trash with systems designed to minimize environmental issues such as groundwater contamination. Specifically, landfills are lined with clay and plastic and are filtered out through a network of drains and pipes. Portland takes all of its landfill-bound trash to a facility near Arlington, OR, about 150 miles away from the metropolitan area.

With all of this in mind, it’s important to recycle and dispose of your trash properly. Here at G.I. Junk, we’re committed to minimizing our impact on the environment. That’s why we donate, recycle, or re-purpose the junk we remove whenever possible. What do you do to recycle? Leave a comment below!

Got Junk?

You can see a more detailed list of our residential and commercial services; review a gallery of our before/after images; read our reviews; or book online (for either a free quote or full job completion).

We provide service within the following parts of the Portland Metro Area:
NE Portland, Fairview, Troutdale, SE Portland, Gresham, Happy Valley, Clackamas, Boring, Damascus, Milwuakie, Jennings Lodge, Oak Grove, Gladstone, Oregon City, Wilsonville, Lake Oswego, Canby.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Call Us Today