Where does our trash go?

Pictured above is the Lancaster Waste to Energy Facility in Harrisburg. The plant incinerates trash and the heat from burning it boils water and generates power through turbines. The smoke is captured with a filter to limit carbon emissions. Photo Courtesy of LCSWMA

Kaylee Rex
Managing Editor

From dining halls to residential buildings, our university creates a lot of trash. Have you ever thought about where it all goes after it is taken away?

According to Grounds Supervisor Seth Taylor, our trash is taken to Transfer Station operated by Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) on Harrisburg Pike. 

Trash is delivered by independent haulers and taken to Transfer Station. Upon arrival, the waste is split into three categories: trash, construction/demolition waste, and single stream recyclables. The separated loads are then dumped into transfer trailers and transported to one of LCSWMA’s two waste-to-energy facilities, the Frey Farm Landfill, or a private recycling facility. 

Where the trash goes is dependent on the type of waste. Trash is delivered to the Lancaster Waste-to-Energy Facility in Bainbridge. Construction/demolition waste is taken to The Frey Farm Landfill. As for single stream recyclables, a third party hauler delivers them to a private recycling facility for processing. 

According to LNP, in 2018, LCSWMA cut their single stream recycling program to include only the “big four:” corrugated cardboard, plastic bottles and jugs with necks, metal food and beverage cans, and glass jars and bottles.

LCSWMA claims to hold their environmental responsibility in high regard, as evident in their various green initiatives. 

At their Waste-to-Energy Facility, located in Conoy Township, non hazardous material is burned at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Boilers filled with water surround the combustion chamber and use the heat from the process to create steam, which turns a turbine, and powers a generator to create energy. About 10% of the energy is used on site, while the other 90% is sent to energy grids to be sold for consumer use, according to LCSWMA’s website. 

 The gas created by the combustion process is filtered through an emissions control process. Metals produced through combustion are sent to market for recycling, but the remaining ash is sent to the Frey Farm Landfill to be used daily. 

The Frey Farm Landfill is filled with mostly of inorganic matter that produces less gas, odor and litter than regular waste. At the end of every day, the waste is covered with ash from LCSWMA’s two waste-to-energy facilities to reduce litter and odor, according to their website. 

The 93-acre landfill is located near the Susquehanna River in Manor Township. Landfill gas is collected at the site and transferred to a nearby facility where it is combusted to make electricity.

To prevent landfill liquid, also called leachate, from leaking into the surrounding environment, a liner system is utilized along with a network of pipes to collect the run off and pump it to a local municipal treatment plant.

When a cell of the landfill reaches capacity, it is sealed with capping materials to block precipitation from reaching the waste material. Vegetation is then planted on top of the sealed area to prevent erosion.

The landfill property also contains the two wind turbines at Turkey Point in Manor Township. They  were installed in 2010 on an underutilized portion of the Frey Farm Landfill property. LCSWMA repurposed the land to host the wind turbines that now generate roughly 6.18 million kWh of clean renewable energy annually for the Turkey Hill Dairy, which is located adjacent to the landfill, according to LCSWMA’s website.

The LCSWMA trucks that transport waste between Transfer Station and their final destinations operate on compressed natural gas (CNG), which is produced by compressing natural gas to less than 1% of its volume at standard atmospheric pressure, according to The U.S. Department of Energy’s website. By using CNG, the company reduces their annual air pollutants by 10 million pounds, according to a video on LCSWMA’s website.

These are just a few of the green initiatives spearheaded by LCSWMA. Humans create tons of waste that can drastically affect our environment if not handled properly. Waste Management companies hold a great responsibility in their hands to properly handle waste in the safest and most harmless way possible.