The path of trash.
The trip for trash starts in your trash can at home, goes through local waste haulers, sometimes through the county and always to a landfill.
Find out more of the details below.
Trash. Everyone know's where it starts, but where does it end up and how does it get there? The process isn't that complicated, but let's take a look at what happens to trash in the County of Santa Barbara.
Step one, Collection.
The waste haulers in the County drive the large trucks with compactors on the back of them. In some local cities, the city is the waste hauler, but in the unincorporated areas, trash is collected with companies that the County permits to pick it up.
The hauler picks up the trash and trucks it to either a transfer station, or a landfill.
What is a Transfer Station?
A transfer station is a location that accepts trash, and frequenly recyclables and other materials, before transfering them off to their final destination. This is done in part so that the heavy trucks that do the collection do not have to drive all the way to a waste's final destination. For instance, the South Coast Recycling & Transfer Station is much closer to Santa Barbara and Goleta than the closest landfill. Nothing stays at the transfer station permanently; everything is transfered out using big rig trucks.
The County operates four transfer stations, which you can read more about on the county website. Trash from all these locations gets transferred to a landfill.
The Landfill, the final resting place.
The principal behind modern sanitary landfills is to bury trash in the most contained way possible. Trash is delivered by trucks to what is called the "open cell". This is the only part of the landfill that has trash visible at the surface. After being delivered, the trash is driven over by heavy machines called compactors. A lot of materials contain air, and the compactors squeeze out as much air as possible. After the cell is full, it is covered permanently with a layer of material, usually dirt or something similar. At that point there is new cell opened until it is filled.
Modern landfills are lined with material to keep contaminents inside the landfill from leaking out. They also have landfill gas collectors to capture most of the methane that the materials inside of the landfill makes. At Tajiguas, the landfill run by the County, landfill gas powers 2500 to 3000 homes each day.
Where are the Landfills?
There are several landfills in the area. The City of Santa Maria has a landfill 4 miles east of the City that accepts the waste generated in the Santa Maria valley. The City of Lompoc and Vandenburg Airforce Base both have landfills that accept waste in their areas. The Tajiguas landfill, which is run by the County of Santa Barbara, serves the unincorporated areas of the South Coast and Santa Ynez Valley as well as the cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta, Solvang and Buellton.
How much trash do we make?
We at the county only really have numbers for our area. We recycle over 70% of the waste we generate in the unincorporated area, meaning only 30% gets buried in landfills like Tajiguas. Unfortunately, this is still a lot of trash. In fact, the amount of trash disposed of today is roughly the same as it was 10 years ago, even though recycling has increased. This means that even though people started recycling more, each person on average throws away more trash and recycling than they did before.
We will be updating this section with estimates from Tajiguas landfill in the near future.
How do we stop trash?
Using this site to reduce, reuse and recycle everything you can is a great place to start. In the future we will also add information about buying recycled content products. You can also start looking for products that have less packaging.
Being concious about the decisions you make wehn buying goods and recycling can have a big impact.
- County Waste Facilities
- Glass Trash
- Government Contacts
- Paper Trash
- Plastic Trash
- Waste Hauler Contacts
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