Recycling Center

Introduction garbage truck destination

Whether you are a conscientious recycler, a person who finds joy in tossing things away with abandon, or something in between, it’s important to understand where your trash ends up. The fate of your garbage is determined by the city or town where you live and what happens there, but even then it can be difficult to know exactly what happens to all those recyclables and compostables. In addition to recycling centers and transfer stations (where refuse trucks bring trash from all over their state for sorting in one place), there are also landfills that process waste and then ship some items overseas for processing. While some municipalities have made great strides toward reducing their carbon footprint by turning recycled materials into new products—from plastic bottles being turned into roads to cardboard becoming furniture—there are still many ways our garbage could be better handled.

What happens to the things you toss in the trash?

So, what happens to the things you toss in the trash?

  • Aluminum, glass and paper can be recycled. After they’re collected they go to recycling centers where they are sorted and separated into different materials. Then they are sold or traded for new products like cans, bottles and newspaper.
  • Composting is limited adoption but growing thanks to education programs about how easy it is (and how much better it smells). The leftover food waste from our kitchens goes into large bins that look like overgrown garbage cans with lids on them! The bins get emptied weekly by someone who brings them back full of composted material which gets used as fertilizer in gardens around town!
  • What happens at a transfer station? There are two types: private-run ones operated by companies like Waste Management Inc., which collect commercial waste; and municipal transfer stations operated by local governments – like ours – where residents drop off their household trash before it’s shipped away towards its final destination: landfills or incinerators.

recycled aluminium cans


Aluminum is the most recycled material in the US. It can be recycled over and over again, so it’s a great material to use in your recycling bin. When you toss aluminum in the blue bin, it will be picked up by a recycling truck (or another recycling company) and brought to a sorting facility where it will be separated by type into different piles: cans, bottles, sheet metal and other products.


If you’re a glass recycler, you might be wondering why we’re going through this exercise at all. After all, glass is pretty straight forward—you just crush it into tiny pieces, melt them down and make new glass products!

It turns out that while some areas do recycle glass and other areas don’t. In the United States many cities have curbside recycling programs for paper and plastic which can sometimes include glass as well (check with your local waste management company to see what they offer). Some cities even have special bins for blue bin items like electronics or batteries. If you live in an area where there is no curbside pickup for recyclables then you may have to take your items directly to a drop off location such as a community center or shopping mall near your home.*


Paper is recycled in a couple of ways. It can be made from the pulp of trees, which is usually what we think about when we think “paper.” However, paper can also be made from recycled paper or plant matter like soy, corn and wheat. Finally, paper can even be made from recycled plastic and glass!

Where your trash goes: Recycling centers

Recycling companies sell their sorted recyclables to companies that make new products out of them—new cans or water bottles, for example. These companies melt down these materials at high temperatures (around 1000°F), which makes them soft enough to form into new shapes without cracking or breaking apart. Once they’re soft enough, workers pour them into molds and let them cool until they harden again into the shape of another item!

There are many different types of recyclables, but most of them have the same general shape and size. The main difference is what they’re made from, and what materials they can be recycled into. Here’s a breakdown of some common items you’ll see on your recycling day:

  • Paper products – Newspapers, junk mail, phone books (you’re not supposed to include these anymore)
  • Plastic bottles – Water bottles, soda pop bottles
  • Metal cans – Aluminum cans (e.g., Coke), tin cans

Where Your Trash Goes: Composters

Composting is the process of breaking down organic materials, such as leaves, food scraps, and grass clippings, into a dark, crumbly material called compost. The result is rich in nutrients and can be used to enrich the soil of gardens or lawns. You don’t need to own your own compost pile to take advantage of this process; many municipalities collect organic waste in their curbside recycling program.

In addition to reducing waste sent to landfills by 80% (and saving money on disposal fees), composting offers several environmental benefits:

Limited adoption of composting

Composting is a great alternative to putting organic waste into landfills. It can take many forms, but the basic idea is that you take your food scraps and other organic material (like dead leaves) and combine them with water and heat, allowing bacteria to break down organic matter into humus—a dark, rich substance that’s good for the soil.

Composting can be done at home by anyone who has space for a compost pile or tumbler bin. However, it isn’t widespread enough yet to make much of an impact on how much garbage gets thrown away.

What Happens at the Transfer Station?

The garbage truck’s final stop is the transfer station. This is where your trash is sorted, compacted, and loaded onto trucks for transport to a landfill or recycling center. Once at a landfill or recycling center, your trash will be unloaded and sorted again. Waste that can be recycled gets sent off to local recycling centers; waste that can only go into landfills (like construction debris) goes there instead.

Why do we use transfer stations instead of sorting our trash at home? Because it would cost too much to hire people to sort our household’s waste stream by hand! If you want more info on how this all works, check out the EPA’s page “What Happens After Your Garbage Truck Leaves Your Home?”

Where your trash goes: shipping trash overseas

The first thing to know is that the trash you send to the landfill or burn actually goes somewhere. It’s not like it disappears into thin air upon leaving your house. The second thing to know is that where your trash goes depends on what you’re throwing out and where it lives.

The amount of municipal solid waste that gets exported each year varies wildly between states, ranging from none in Maine to over 2 percent of total state waste in California. The majority of this imported garbage comes from Canada and Mexico, but some states also ship their trash overseas—New York City alone sends nearly 30 percent of its municipal solid waste abroad (the rest goes into landfills).

The main reason why we export our trash overseas? We don’t have enough recycling facilities within our own borders; our cities simply can’t handle all the waste they produce. This problem has only gotten worse since China stopped accepting unsorted plastic and paper products for recycling last year—a decision which led many US cities like Seattle (which had been sending about half its recycling overseas) scrambling for new ways to deal with their excess loads.

Changes in global waste disposal

The world has seen great changes in how we dispose of our waste. This is due to the increase in recycling and composting, which are both good for the environment. Recycling centers have been established all over the world to help people get rid of their recyclables via multiple bins, where they can be separated from other refuse and collected by the recycling company. Composting centers have also arisen as an alternative way of getting rid of food scraps and other biodegradable materials that would otherwise be thrown out with regular garbage.

It’s not always clear how your trash is handled.

You might not be aware of the changes in global waste disposal. It’s not always clear how your trash is handled, or where it goes.


When you throw something in the trash, it’s natural to wonder where it goes and how it’s handled. As we saw from this post, there are plenty of different ways that your trash can be disposed of. Hopefully, we gave you some insight into how your city handles its waste — but if not? You could always ask!