As of 2008 when the city began tracking waste statistics as part of its Greenworks initiative, about 53% of waste in Philadelphia avoided the landfill through recycling and waste to energy (WTE) practices. By 2012 this increased to 73% of waste avoiding landfills, and in 2014 the Philadelphia Streets Department began diverting all waste from land-fills through a combination of recycling and WTE practices.
So if you are wondering where your trash goes in Philadelphia, it is either recycled or turned into energy. There are a wide variety of recycling facilities in and around the city listed in the map below.
The largest Waste to Energy Facility is in Chester, known as Covanta Delaware Valley or The Delaware Valley Resource Recovery facility, and it burns up to 3,300 tons of waste per day. A smaller facility known as Covanta Plymouth Renewable Energy is located in Conshohocken and handles up to 1,200 tons of trash per day. Another facility in Morristown PA is the Wheelabrator Falls Inc. waste-to-energy facility, which can handle 1,500 tons per day.
For many years there were 4 major landfills in the Philadelphia area.
- Morrisville, Bucks County.
- Tullytown, Bucks County.
- Pottstown, Montgomery County.
- West Grove, Chester County.
The Tullytown landfill is certified through 2019 but Waste Management, who runs the landfill, said they expect it to close in three years, which would be at some point in 2018. There is another landfill very nearby in Morrisville known as the GROWS North Landfill that is expected to close down earlier than that. Did you know that cash gifts from the Borough of Tullytown have been as high as $6000 per household? Residents have to put up with the terrible smell of the landfill, but are rewarded with some of the revenue from the landfill. Read more on Bloomberg.com
The landfill in Pottstown PA was closed as of 2005.
The landfill in West Grove has no plans of closing. In fact the development plans on their website will keep the landfill open through 2051.
While the need for landfills is decreasing, the Zero Waste Sub committee defines zero waste as over 90% diversion rate. So there is still some waste that can’t be recycled or converted to energy. Many townships outside of Philadelphia still use landfills. In fact there are 44 permitted landfills in Pennsylvania; however, only 3 of those reside in Philadelphia, Chester County, Delaware County, and Bucks County.