Where does our trash go?


Camla Olson slaved over her Sunday dinner. Her table was covered with homemade rolls, crisp salad and a juicy-looking chicken. It took about four hours to put together and 12 minutes to consume the meal, after which left-over food was placed in the fridge and plates were scraped into the trash.

“I hate having food wasted, but it’s usually just bones or other uneatable things we throw away,” Olson said.

When waste is thrown away, placed in a black trash bin and hauled to the curb on trash pickup day, most people don’t think twice about where it’s taken. However, understanding what happens to trash is a seemingly vital step in understanding why waste prevention and recycling are important.

“For every ton that we recycle, we add more years to our available landfill space, which is why it is so important,” said Roger Harper, district manager at North Pointe Solid Waste, which is in charge of the disposal of Utah County’s garbage. “The need for landfills will never go away, but the need for more and bigger landfills can be eliminated with an understanding of waste prevention.”

A lot goes into handling a city’s garbage. Time, labor, fuel, money, materials that produce trains and trucks and other types of energy are consumed as waste is transported to its final resting place, a landfill.

“In Utah County, [garbage] is picked up by the garbage truck and is brought to our transfer station where it’s dumped on the floor,” Harper said. “There it’s moved to a larger tuck and is transferred to Tooele, where our landfill is.”

Garbage is usually moved to a landfill about five hours after it is picked up.

Provo city councilman Rick Healey said Utah County’s garbage flow works well, but will be even better when the cities new opt-out recycling plan kicks in.

“Recycling is a big deal when it comes to trash flow,” Healey said. “Our new opt-out program has boosted our recycling effort by somewhere upward of 50 percent. I think we were somewhere around 24 percent and then that boosted it up above 50 percent somewhere.”

Provo’s new opt-out program will add more customers who recycle.

“Understanding what happens to our trash is  important, especially when it comes to recycling,” said Scott Peppler, public services deputy director for the public works department in Provo. “With Provo’s new opt-out program, you figure we’re going to probably add another 8,000 people on the recycling efforts. This means we may see a significant reduction in our landfill waste.”

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