National Waste & Recycling Association

The National Waste & Recycling Association is the trade association that represents the private sector solid waste and recycling industry. Visit and learn more the Association at wasterecycling.org.

Begin with the Bin is a public education resource developed by the National Waste & Recycling Association.

The National Waste & Recycling Association is located at:
4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20008
T: 800-424-2869, 202-244-4700
F: 202-966-4824
E: info@wasterecycling.org
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To use our contact form and to subscribe to our free publications, click here.
Media: Jessica Mayorga at 202-364-3706 or jmayorga@wasterecycling.org.

Begin with the Bin

Begin with the Bin is a public education resource developed by the National Waste & Recycling Association. The site offers information and resources related to the waste and recycling industries. Visit and learn more at beginwiththebin.org.

The Journey of Trash

Modern trash and recycling collection are convenient and easy processes for individuals and businesses. When our trash or recyclables are placed curbside, in a bin, or down a chute – they are “out of sight and out of mind.” But that’s just the first step in a processing journey.

The waste industry does more than simply collect trash. Along this journey, industry professionals are essential partners in meeting your community’s needs for professional, innovative and environmentally responsive management of waste. We offer solutions to some of today’s most important environmental challenges: recycling millions of tons of paper, metal, plastic and other resources; creating new sources of clean, renewable energy; and building state-of-the-art landfills for increased protection of natural resources and wildlife habitats.

How does the waste collection and management process typically work? Where does our garbage & recycling go? Explore the steps of the journey below…

Explore the image above, using your cursor or touch-screen.

Overview

At Your Home

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds of trash every day. That’s a little over 250 million tons collected per year in the U.S. That figure only includes the waste from homes, businesses, schools, etc. -- known as municipal solid waste (MSW). If you add all the construction and demolition debris, industrial wastes such as coal ash and medical waste and other wastes produced in America each year, that number would be significantly higher. Proper waste management and environmental stewardship is vital. There is an entire section of this site that will help you to Be Mindful with your waste.

Modern Trucks

There are over 100,000 garbage trucks operating in the United States, and most are diesel powered. However, America’s waste industry is investing in alternative fuels such as clean natural gas and biodiesel. Some of this natural gas is being directly sourced from landfill gas capture. Hybrid collection trucks conserve energy and reduce operating costs. In fact, garbage trucks have become the most rapidly growing natural gas vehicle sector in the nation with almost 50% of such vehicles purchased in 2012 powered by natural gas, according to Natural Gas Vehicles for America. In addition to using less fuel and reducing costs, these trucks generally emit less particulate matter and nitrogen oxide, helping improve air quality. They also have fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline and diesel vehicles. Learn more about modern truck technologies.

Transfer Stations

Transfer stations are the hubs for waste management. Municipal solid waste is unloaded from collection vehicles at these facilities and briefly held before being reloaded onto larger long-distance transport vehicles for shipment to landfills or other treatment or disposal facilities. By combining the loads of several garbage trucks into a single shipment, communities can save money on the labor and operating costs of transporting waste to a distant disposal site. They can also reduce the total number of trips traveling to and from the disposal site, cutting down on road wear.

At the Recycling Center

The waste industry collects and processes recyclables. According to the EPA in 2012, Americans recycled 65 million tons of paper, cans and bottles and composted another 21 million tons of yard waste, for a total of almost 87 million tons. Recycling not only reduces the waste that ends up in our landfills, it produces other tangible benefits. For example, recycling allows us to conserve vital natural resources. It reduces air and water pollution and cuts greenhouse gas emission, which contributes to climate change. Learn more about recycling across the nation.

Composting

Composting is a method of recycling organic food and yard waste from households and commercial establishments. More and more Americans are composting at home, and commercial composting facilities may be found in many communities. The addition of compost promotes healthy soil and plants while preserving landfill capacity. Compostable materials break down into a soil-like substance that is a good fertilizer and soil additive for planting. Compost also offers economic benefits by reducing the need for water, fertilizers and pesticides. Learn more about composting.

Modern Landfills

Despite our efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle waste, more than half of the garbage generate ends up in landfills. Landfills are designed, sited, engineered, operated, regulated, tested and monitored in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. It is a carefully designed and monitored facility that protects the environment (e.g., groundwater, air, surface water). This is accomplished through the use of  liners and daily covering of soil. Landfills are carefully filled, monitored and maintained while operating. The monitoring continues  long after they close. Permitting a modern landfill generally takes years – sometimes as long as a decade, costing millions of dollars due to the rigorous siting, engineering and environmental requirements necessary to demonstrate and ensure regulatory and safety concerns are satisfied. Learn more about modern landfill.

Landfill Gas-to-Energy

As landfill waste decomposes, it produces landfill gas that is largely composed of methane and carbon dioxide. The collected landfill gas can be utilized as “green” energy. The use of landfill gas for energy is helping advance our national energy security goals by reducing reliance on foreign sources. It also reduces the landfill’s affect on climate change by displacing fossil fuel use.. According to the EPA, America’s = waste industry produces enough electricity and methane from landfill gas projects to light and heat nearly 1.6 million homes. Learn more about landfill gas-to-energy.

Waste-to-Energy

Waste can be used as a source of renewable and sustainable energy directly. Waste-to-energy facilities burn garbage in power plants equipped with modern pollution control equipment to manage emissions. According to the Energy Recovery Council, as of 2014, America’s waste industry operated 86 waste-to-energy facilities in 24 states with the capacity to process more than 97,000 tons of municipal solid waste per day. These facilities generate the energy equivalent of 2,790 megawatt hours of electricity, enough to power 1.6 million homes. Learn more about waste-based energy.

At Manufacturing Sites

 

The waste industry provides valuable resources and power to America’s manufacturing sector. More and more products are produced today using recycled paper, plastic, metal and glass that was collected and processed by America’s solid waste industry. Honeywell, General Motors, BMW, Mars and many other companies are using power generated from waste-based, renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save millions of dollars in annual energy costs and reduce our dependence on foreign energy. Read these Environmentalists. Every Day. stories on our homepage.

Land Reuse

Landfills in many communities feature wildlife habitats, natural wetlands, and community facilities where schoolchildren and others can learn about environmental stewardship, waste reduction, recycling, and other “green” activities. Other beneficial landfill reuse projects provide recreational areas like golf courses and bike parks to a number of communities nationwide. Even where landfills have been closed and land reuse projects have been created, the landfill operator may continue to collect landfill gas at these sites, allowing for continued renewable energy production. Learn more about land reuse.