Where Does the Trash Go in Raleigh

All day every day, we throw things out and set our garbage cans on the curb each week. For most of us, that’s where the story ends. In reality, each piece of garbage goes on a journey that involves a great deal of technology and logistics.

Each town tackles waste disposal in a different way. In Raleigh, trash ends up in one of 17 waste management facilities.  

Waste Management in Raleigh

According to the Wake County Waste & Recycling Information Guide, garbage and recyclables are processed at any of these facilities in Raleigh:

  1. Waste Disposal Facilities: The South Wake Landfill is the only landfill in Wake County, situated between Apex and Holly Springs. It opened in 2008 and the plan is to keep it active for 30 years.
  2. East Wake Transfer Center: At this station, waste that comes in from Eastern and Northern Wake County. At the transfer center, the waste is sorted, put on trucks, and transported to the South Wake Landfill.
  3. Landfill Gas to Energy Center: As material breaks down, it releases gas, so all landfills produce a gas. Usually, it’s composed of 50% methane and 50% carbon dioxide. South Wake Landfill has gas collection wells that transport the gas to a landfill gas-to-energy facility. The process produces 4 megawatts of energy, which can power 4,000-8,000 homes, depending on how much electricity is in use.
  4. Convenience Centers: These are drop off facilities where Wake County residents can drop off recyclables or waste free of charge at any of the 11 locations.
  5. Multi-Material Recycling Facilities: These facilities accept materials that aren’t always accepted in your curbside recycling or at convenience centers. Examples of these materials include tires, cardboard, discs and tapes, and antifreeze. Wake County residents can drop off their items free of charge at one of the 2 facilities, either in the Northeast or Northwest of the county.
  6. Hazardous Waste Facilities: Certain household items cannot be disposed of in regular garbage. Wake County has 2 hazardous waste facilities, one in Northwest Wake County, and one in Southwest Wake County. Wake County residents can drop their hazardous waste off free of charge.

The Future of Waste in Raleigh

As the waste in the East Wake Landfill increases, the Landfill Gas to Energy Center will be able to power more homes. Raleigh waste authorities say that the landfill has the capacity to produce 12 megawatts of energy per day, which is enough to power 24,000 homes.

You may also be interested in reading about what happens to trash in Washington, DC and Philadelphia

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