On average, every American throws out 4.9 pounds of trash per day. That’s a whopping 1788 pounds of solid waste per annum for every US resident, making America the most trash-producing country in World.

But where does this trash go? Does it directly end up in the Ocean, or is there some hierarchy for municipal solid waste?  

So, if you’re searching for where does the garbage go after it leaves your house? Here’s what you need to know:

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Residential trash is either taken to a material recovery facility, waste-to-energy facility or end up in landfill. If taken either to source reduction or recycling centers, the material is sorted and reused.

Then, all the leftover waste is sent to energy recovery. From there, total unusable refuse ends up in landfills. 

Worry not, these are just the facts. We’ve got detailed research for you. So, let’s dig deep and prove facts with figures and numbers.

1. Waste Hierarchy Pyramid

Residential trash goes through several steps before it ends up in the landfill. Even though more than half of the solid waste ends up as disposed of, still around 48% is either reused or goes to an energy recovery center.

Throw the garbage bag into the trash can

The waste management hierarchy is given below: 

  • The US produces 268 million tons of waste each year.
  • Only 94 million tons of waste is either recycled or compostable.
  • Over 140 million tons end up in landfills.

2. Where Does Garbage Go After It Leaves Your House?

This mainly depends on the type of your residential refuse. All the recyclables are set to local recycling centers where they are segregated and reused. 

Where Does Garbage Go After It Leaves Your House?

All of the yard waste is usually composted, while the other discarded items are sent to waste-to-energy facilities. The remaining trash goes to landfills.

The US has more than 1250 active landfills, mostly located in the Southern and Midwestern parts. Ironically, with growing numbers of landfills, the US is still running out of landfills to dump all the refuse.

3. Where Does My Recycling Go?

All of your recycling is sorted out either by hand or by machine. Then, all the recyclables are sold to local or international manufacturers. They make valuable commodities out of it and resell the new product in the market.

What Percentage Of Recycling Actually Gets Recycled?

Only 5% of the plastic is actually recycled. The main reason behind this issue is that either the bottles are not properly placed or can’t be recycled; only plastic bottles with #1 and #2 are considered easily recyclable. Due to this, over 90% of plastic can’t be recycled. 

When it comes to paper and cardboard, over 95% of these materials are reused. All the electronic waste is segregated at the e-waste collection centers, and then over 70% of the components are reused.

4. Where Does Trash Go After The Landfill?

Every day, thousands of trash dumpsters of different sizes end up in landfills. Usually, this is the last place in the waste hierarchy pyramid. 

In landfills, garbage is decomposed slowly in a sealed, oxygen-free environment. It takes years for proper decomposition. The decomposition time mainly depends on the moisture level and the material of the object.

5. Does The US Dump Garbage In The Ocean?

The US used to dump most of its trash into the ocean. But thankfully, now the US is at the forefront of protecting ocean water and coastal areas. Dumping hazardous waste in oceans is banned.

Waster Go

Where Does All The Trash In The World Go?

Around 2-3% of residential and commercial garbage is traded overseas. Around 55.7% of plastic waste ends up in China and is then converted into new plastic materials, i.e., utensils, pots, and toys. The rest of the 97% of the world’s trash is handled domestically. Over 25% is recycled, while 72% is either discarded or used in landfills. 

6. How To Reduce Waste?

With all the go-green campaigns and Global warming, it is best to take action right now, and every person must act individually to reduce trash.

How To Reduce Waste

Here are three simple steps to reduce waste:

  • Ensure minimal food waste. Instead, use fruit and vegetable peels as natural compost.
  • Say no to single-use plastic bags and bottles.
  • Ensure maximum recycling. 

By following these easy steps, you can reduce around 50% of your annual waste. This will help a lot to protect the environment.

Wrapping It Up!

Once the garbage disposal track leaves your home, it goes straight to the local trash management department. There all of the recycles are segregated and either reused or sent to a waste-to-energy conservation facility.

Total unusable or refuse to end up in landfills. There it decomposed and eventually became part of the soil. To protect our Planet, we all must take responsibility and make less trash.


Jimmy Carter specializes in providing up-to-date information on trash schedules for cities and states across the USA. With a passion for community service and sustainability, Jimmy is committed to helping people reduce their environmental impact and keep their neighborhoods clean.

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