Not Easy Being Green Part 4: Where Does Your Trash Go After It's Picked Up? These Days, It's Far Away

Not Easy Being Green Part 4: Where Does Your Trash Go After It’s Picked Up? These Days, It’s Far Away

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a new series of recycling stories from Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Got a question? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or

I talk so much about recycling that I thought I’d take a dive into that other dumpster: The Trash!

Have you ever wondered where your trash goes after it is picked up? Maybe you have and maybe you haven’t. But now that you are thinking about it, let me fill you in! It does not just “go away.” Depending on where you live and which hauler you have, your waste goes to one of several transfer stations and then to a landfill that is somewhere between 30 and 100 miles away.

Here is a quick guide to the industry lingo used in this article:

  • Hauler: Curbside waste and recycling service provider.
  • Solid Waste: An industry term for garbage, refuse or trash.
  • Transfer Station: A half-way destination for solid waste collected at the curb by the smaller trash trucks that you see on your streets and alleys, where it is consolidated and loaded onto large trailers for transport to landfills.
  • Landfill: Formerly known as a dump, now are huge operations where solid waste is buried in lined cells that will need to be managed for years to come. Landfill space is limited and diminishing. See pages 34-36 of the 2015 Solid Waste Plan for more detail.

No operating landfills remain in Kane County. The last, Settler’s Hill Landfill in Geneva, which is owned by the county and was operated under contract by Waste Management, was closed for business in December 2006.

The Kane County Solid Waste Management Plan opposes the siting and/or construction of any new landfill capacity within Kane County, established by resolution 95-247, which states, in part: “The Kane County Board will not pursue the acquisition of property, the development of, or the siting approval for a new landfill facility in Kane County.”

Solid waste collected in Kane County is delivered to transfer stations and then taken to numerous landfills, including facilities in Ogle, Lee, Winnebago, Livingston and DeKalb counties. See the 2015 Update to the Solid Waste Management and Resource Recovery Plan on Capacity, Sections 3.4 and 3.5, pages 34-37, for details on the landfills utilized by haulers operating in Kane.

For example, if you have Advanced Disposal as your service provider, they pick up your trash curbside, take it to their transfer station in Batavia and then out to the Orchard Hills Landfill for entombment. If you have Groot, it ends up at either Orchard Hills or Lee County Landfill. If you have Waste Management, the final resting place of your trash is the DeKalb County Landfill.

Waste Diversion

It is sadly true that many items in our modern consumer-products world are not recyclable, so the only option at this time (beyond creative reuse) is to put them in a landfill.

Yet there are many items that can be recycled (or composted)! According to a 2015 report published by Resource Recycling Systems, 70 percent of the U.S. waste stream could actually be recycled or composted. Because not all of the recyclable and compostable material is separated out and recaptured, the actual national waste diversion rate is around just 34 percent of the total waste stream. (Source:

Waste Diversion, or landfill diversion, is generally defined as the process of diverting waste from landfills through recycling and composting.

Here in Kane County our residential waste diversion rate has been steady at somewhere between 37 percent and 40 percent since we began tracking it over 10 years ago. So we are slightly better than the national average.

Both the national and local recycling rates across the nation have seen little increase over the years, but that is another topic. It does give us an opportunity for improvement, and it is not about recycling more, it’s about wasting less.

Room For Improvement

Again I return to the message of the hour, the day, the year, aw heck, this is the message of our times! PLEASE REDUCE YOUR WASTE OUTPUT!

Our resource consumption continues to increase, making it paramount that we all reassess our purchasing habits and be more selective concerning the packaging of our products. Aim for zero waste and see how close you can get!

ReThink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Compost!

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