Life Cycle of Waste 101
With more people taking an interest in sustainable green solutions, a common question we are asked is "what happens to my garbage once my dumpster is dumped or hauled away?" We thought we would take the time on our website to address some of your common inquiries on sustainability, recycling and various waste to energy programs currently underway in many parts of the country.
The short answer to "what happens to my garbage once the dumpster is gone?" depends on the material that is disposed of as well as the capabilities in your part of the country to recycle and/or reuse such materials. For the sake of this brief introduction we will limit the waste life cycles to the three predominant services Waste Solutions of America offers via dumpster services.
General Waste is predominantly but not necessarily entirely land filled. However, just because a given material is land filled does not necessarily mean it cannot eventually be reused in one way, shape or form. Many land fills throughout the United States have land fill gas to energy facilities where the common garbage can be used to create energy in the form of electricity through various multi-step processes through incineration and newly developing thermal technologies. Simply put, depending on where you live, the garbage you throw away can literally power your light bulb in the future.
In some parts of the country general wastes are processed through a Materials Recovery Facility to extract commodities such as mixed recyclables and in some case wood and other construction related debris before being transported to a land fill. Think of a Materials Recovery Facility as a place where the various recyclables are separated, sorted and bundled and prepared to be reused as other materials.
Today, nearly in every corner of the country waste haulers and transfer stations have the capacity to process single stream recycling, which refers to common recycling materials such as plastics, aluminum, paper, card board, etc. Upon the removal of your recycling dumpster, the materials are generally hauled to a Materials Recovery Facility.
Recyclables are usually placed on various conveyer belts and ran through the Materials Recovery Facility where plastics, papers and aluminum are separated from one another and stockpiled clear of contamination. After this point, the stockpiled sorted materials are generally bailed (compressed) into large cubes typically weighing over 1,000 lbs. Think of bailing the recyclable materials as the process of preparing it to be shipped. You wouldn’t simply dump tons of plastics on a boat to ship, instead you would compress the plastics into a organized cube wrapped with metal wires to keep it organized and manageable. Bailed recyclable materials are sold in various markets. Buyers of such materials will typically melt the recyclables and reuse them to create new materials hence completing the sustainability loop.
Construction & Demolition Debris (C&D)
Many materials disposed of in a construction dumpster have value and also can be recycled. However, the ability to recycle C&D debris is more limited. Remember, the extent to which your dumpster’s materials can be recycled is largely dependant on the recycling capacity of the facility where your dumpster is hauled. Some parts of the country have the capacity to run construction debris through a Materials Recover Facility as they would traditional recyclables. During this process salvageable materials such as wood, dirt, concrete and other useful materials are separated and either resold or reused to the extent that there is a market for it. Construction debris is in some cases simply land filled. While this may not be the most sustainable solution, it remains the only solution in areas where facilities to recycle such materials simply do not exist.
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