Where Does Trash Go?

It's easy to put garbage into the trash, but do you ever wonder what happens to it after it gets picked up? It's all too easy to assume that it goes to a landfill somewhere right away- however, there is more to it than you've been led to think.  To help reduce our daily waste, it pays to understand how garbage disposal impacts our world in several ways.  If you're local to Phoenix and are curious about how trash and garbage are handled, we're dishing out the real dirt.

What to know about Garbage in Phoenix, AZ

The Denali Depackager

All of us learn at some point that garbage goes into landfills and that’s the end of the story. Sadly, most of that narrative is true aside from the part that every city has a different method of disposal and how that waste is managed. Even though it’s considered organic garbage, it does need to be sorted according to new initiatives that Phoenix is applying to reduce waste that goes into landfills.

Before 2017, much of the garbage that was picked up by city waste management collectors needed to be manually sorted to pick out items such as plastic and packaging from the so-called green waste pickup. It wasn’t until September of 2022 that the Phoenix Public Works facility located on 27th Avenue finally upgraded its compost facility to include a new machine called The Denali Depackager.

Just like Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin, this machine is capable of sorting green materials from packaging, wrappers, and plastics. It can process upwards of 15 tons of trash per hour sorting compostable material from the non-compostable items that are intended to go to landfills. Composting of green material only takes 45-60 days and is then suitable for shipping to community gardens and local plant nurseries.

As positive as this sounds- Phoenix still only has two official transfer stations located in the north and south of Phoenix before it ends up at the Route 85 landfill in Buckeye. And with the addition of recycling bins for residents to further separate recyclable materials, the amount of excess packaging and plastics that go into garbage bins is wildly out of control. It’s not enough to expect that a single sorting machine can ease the issue of landfill waste either.

This is why learning about where garbage is going helps to educate everyone on the troublesome issue of landfills in general. In the following sections, you'll learn the details of what is being removed from Phoenix trash and how it's being handled and managed.

If you're looking for a local trash pickup service, see our main Phoenix page here. However, if you're looking for more information on local bulk trash pickup services offered by your Phoenix city, click here.

FAQs...Talking Trash

What Happens When Trash is Picked Up from Your Home?

junk removal service

If you own or rent a home in Phoenix, chances are you have garbage service that's picked up by either two companies called Advanced Disposal or Waste Management. Your garbage and recyclables are taken to two different facilities located strategically at the north and south centers that handle different tasks. The northern facility called the North Gateway Transfer Station handles sorting of all kinds including trash, and recyclables like paper, cardboard, metal, plastic, and glass.

All green garbage regardless of what’s inside it gets sent to the southern facility called the 27th Avenue Transfer Station. This is where green garbage is separated from packaging, plastics, and many other items hidden within compostable garbage. Both of these facilities are the only two managed by the city of Phoenix that are collected by Advanced Disposal and Waste Management services.  

What Happens When the Trash Is Hauled To a Landfill?

trash at landfill site

A majority of the excess waste that’s separated from the 27th Avenue Transfer Station is taken directly to a landfill site located off Route 85 landfill in Buckeye. The North Gateway Transfer Station may further send non-recyclable items to the landfill as well if they cannot be properly recycled. All of these items intended for the landfill are systematically shredded in special machines to conserve space in the landfill itself.

When there are items that are considered hazardous, toxic or pose a threat to the environment, they are buried in special cells that are reserved for separated areas of the Route 85 landfill. These can include car batteries, paint containers, or medical waste depending on the type of liner cell that's used to store them. This select trash is buried deeper inside their cells and monitored carefully using special instruments to detect leakage or problems.

Regular landfill garbage is placed into pits and buried using special bulldozers to compact the material after being covered with dirt, rocks, and sand.  

What Happens To The Trash At The Landfill And How Is It Disposed Of?

trash processing in waste management facility

All trash that goes into the Route 85 landfill is separated according to the category it’s meant to occupy. Not so much organic matter is sent to this facility anymore since the 27th Avenue Transfer Station in south Phoenix now separates green compost materials from packaging and plastics. In the old days before 2017, there was more material that could have been used for composting that ended up there.

Hazardous materials are treated with care and are placed into special container ‘cells’ to prevent them from leaking into the soil and harming groundwater supplies. All of the leftover shredded waste is buried where it will take several decades (if not centuries) to fully become broken down and disintegrate.  

What Is the National and Local Environmental Impact of Trash in Landfills?

landfill located at Route 85 in Buckeye

The landfill located at Route 85 in Buckeye (aka SR-85) was originally purchased by the city of Phoenix in January 2002 and went into operation by 2006. And though it's not a public dumping site, it averages 3,500 tons of new material per day. It covers 2,652 acres of land with less than one-third of the landfill that is currently being used. There is no current data available on how long it will take before this site is completely full.

According to national averages, experts estimate there are 40 years before the current capacity for landfill space is exhausted. This also depends on the methods used for landfill conservation and proper recycling of everyday trash. Many people do not know that water is also a vital part of garbage processing. It takes a total of 500 gallons just to process 1 ton of garbage intended for landfills.

Since Arizona and Phoenix are already facing water issues, this is another aspect that needs to be considered to reduce the ongoing increases related to trash processing. To help solve future problems in the future, long-term plans need to be put into place through responsible recycling and garbage sorting.     

What Are Some Ways We Can Help Cut Down On The Negative Environmental Impacts On Trash?

trash sorted in bins

The best step forward to cut down on the amount of trash that goes into our landfills is to become more selective about what materials are being recycled. There is a plethora of information on what materials can be recycled and which containers they go into. If less of this material goes into the regular garbage bin, the better the chances will become for reducing landfill waste. This is the optimistic approach (of course) until our city starts mandatory fines on waste disposal. Keep in mind the old adage: your trash can be someone else's treasure. Donation is always a great way to eliminate unwanted items that can be reused. At AZ Junk Removal, we often remove junk from people's homes and instead of hauling all the stuff to a landfill, we'll donate select items to local charities or donation centers. 

It’s a horrible idea that our government should punish individuals who aren’t following the correct recycling rules, yet that type of thought is happening now. Recently, Katie Hobbs put an immediate veto on ending sales tax on food. While much of the packaging for food includes a variety of plastics that are bonded to drink and liquid containers, these products cannot be recycled so easily. This recycling cost is thus passed onto the consumer…

Adding insult to injury, the suggestion to drop sales tax for diapers and feminine products (aka The Pink Tax) will only add to landfill waste simply because the waste products are not considered green compostable materials. While diapers are made from bio-degradable plastics, they end up in landfills due to the separation process when plastics and other materials go through the Denali Depackager machine.

a closer look at trash & garbage in arizona

man throwing trash in dumpster

The average Phoenix resident generates roughly 1.14 tons of trash per year which accounts for 3% that is factored for the entire state. This number is growing from previous years with a remarkable shift that now embraces disposable lifestyles through the products that we buy. According to statistics, in 2019, 10 million tons of trash were placed into Arizona landfills containing 25% plastic and 56% paper or cardboard material.

The remainder of these products included glass, metal, and wood, mixed with various plastic products. As these numbers increase for 2023, there are now 3,500 tons of trash going into the current landfill for Phoenix every day. Until a better recycling method can be implemented, landfills will continue to grow with fewer security protocols to manage potential pollution problems that can occur from chemical leaching into the soil or worse.    

In addition to trash that ends up at landfills, hazardous materials also find their way into these city-regulated dump sites. It's not the lack of information on recycling that has led to the improper disposal of garbage, but rather the lack of awareness on how dangerous this practice has become. Many people don't think of the fallout of groundwater supplies being poisoned by chemicals or toxins that leach into the soil.

This is exactly the case for Maryvale, which experienced one of the worst outbreaks of soil contamination in all of Maricopa County. The case is so severe that 2022 reports issued a new groundwater warning that is spreading through Maryvale once again. Even with safety requirements for city landfills to include special lined cells that are buried 30 feet below ground, there is no guarantee that contents will not burn through these liners and leach into the soil.

About Our Trash Pickup & Dumpster Services

az junk truck dumping garbage

AZ Junk Removal we work hard to keep AZ looking good. has worked tirelessly for years to help inform Phoenix residents about the virtue of proper recycling and junk removal services. See why we've been referred to as 'The Best Hauler in All the Land'.  We have also worked closely with the city of Phoenix to provide junk and trash removal services as much as possible. We are proud to do our part to reduce the amount of hazardous waste that can end up in city landfills and can help you find an easier way to remove and dispose of these unwanted materials.

We also specialize in helping to clear out and take away all kinds of recycling materials from any home or property and take them to their respected recycling centers. If you have a trash problem, we have a solution, even if it means renting you a dumpster for a few days if you prefer to do the heavy lifting at your leisure.  Contact us for fast and easy garbage or bulk trash removal services.      

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About the author
Wordpress Username: azjunk

Brad Thomason is the owner of AZ Junk Removal, a seasoned professional with decades of experience in the moving and junk removal industry. With an acute understanding of how people acquire and dispose of items, he established his company in 2001, serving the Phoenix, Arizona area with exceptional junk removal services. Throughout his career, Brad has witnessed the exponential growth of the city as new communities, businesses, and retail centers continue to develop.

Committed to offering a more personalized approach, Brad operates the company as an owner-operator, actively involved in daily operations. When you choose AZ Junk Removal to eliminate clutter, you can expect to work directly with Brad, one of his close family members, or friends. This level of customer service sets them apart from other franchised hauling companies in the Valley.

With his wealth of knowledge and commitment to providing top-notch service, going with Brad Thomason is the clear choice for all of your junk removal needs in Phoenix, Arizona.


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