Recycling Myth: Landfills are cheap

March 20, 2009 at 2:02 pm 2 comments

Where does your garbage go?  



Where does your garbage go? Learn about reducing your trash at


Let’s talk some trash.  The average Wisconsinitte creates over 4 1/2 lbs. of trash a day.  This is what we put into landfills, and does not include all that we recycle.  Despite the fact that we put so much stuff into landfills, most people know very little about them.  So here we go: a little bit of info about landfills.

Where is the dump?

Nowhere.  There are no dumps in Waukesha County, only landfills.  This may seem like picky syntax, but there used to be dumps and now there are not so depending what you are getting rid of, you may have to go to a different location.  Do you have something to trash?  The first step is to make sure you can throw it in a landfill.  According to Wisconsin state law the following items are banned from landfills.

Other items can be recycled, such as electronics and textiles.  Some harmful substances like paint, chemicals, medical wastes, and antifreeze can also be disposed of in a more proper way than tossing it into a landfill.

If landfilling is the only option, check with your municipality to inquire about how much trash you can put out for curbside collection.  Each municipality contracts (or allows their residents to contract) for trash service individually.  They may or may not have included bulky items in their contract.  If the municipality did not contract for large or bulky item trash pick-up, there may be a drop off site your community pays for, or you may have to call your hauler and arrange for a special pick up.  

If you need to take your items to the landfill, there are 2 in Waukesha County.  These are privately owned enterprises and you should contact the landfills for information about their fee schedule.  Muskego (Emerald Park Landfill) — W124 S10629 S 124th St. — (414)529-1360.  They are open Fridays & Saturdays.  The other option is in Menomonee Falls (Orchard Ridge Landfill) — W124 N9355 Boundary Rd. –(262)253-8620.  They are open Monday through Saturday.  

They are going to charge me to throw it away?

Yes.  Wisconsin has some of the cheapest disposal rates, but there is a cost to toss.  Your contracted collection through your municipality is paid for by your community, some part of which you may see broken out on your tax bill.  On average, it costs $35 a ton to throw something away in Wisconsin.  This does not account for collection costs.  

Isn’t a landfill just a hole in the ground?

And the hole in the ground
And the green grass grows all around, all around
The green grass grows all around.
Not so much.  Landfills are highly engineered.  There is a thick clay liner as well as a plastic liner.  This prevents lechate (toxic runoff) from getting into the soil and groundwater.  Pipes collect lechate from the bottom of the landfill while other pipes collect methane and bring it to the surface.  There are wells to monitor groundwater, and pipes to monitor methane formation.  When the landfill is complete it is caped with a plastic and clay liner again.  Once a landfill is closed, the owner of the permit is responsible for care and maintenence for 40 years.  If anything goes wrong (i.e. the clay cracks because of settling, lechate leaks, methane causes the whole thing to explode, etc.) the permit owner is responsible.  However, after 40 years responsibility shifts to the state and they become responsible for any issues.
Despite being costly to operate, there are not significant jobs created by landfills.  For similar amounts to be disposed of, recycling generates 10 jobs for every 1 job a landfill creates.  The cost to toss, then, is not being circulated into the economy, but pays for the extensive monitoring equipment required for landfills.  This is why the 3 R’s (or 5 R’s if you are me) are so important.
recycle more,
Recycle Raccoon

Entry filed under: Electronics, Facts & Figures, Hazardous Waste, Some Background, Waukesha. Tags: , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Trash Recycling « Recycle For Everyone  |  November 6, 2009 at 11:27 am

    […] High Cost of Landfills, Seperation would help experts say […]

  • 2. ron allevato  |  December 11, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    have you noticed that not many pepole care about grass going to the landfill or the water to keep it alive?????????????

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