National Waste & Recycling Association

The National Waste & Recycling Association is the trade association that represents the private sector solid waste and recycling industry. Visit and learn more the Association at wasterecycling.org.

Begin with the Bin is a public education resource developed by the National Waste & Recycling Association.

The National Waste & Recycling Association is located at:
4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20008
T: 800-424-2869, 202-244-4700
F: 202-966-4824
E: info@wasterecycling.org
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Media: Chris Doherty at 202-364-3751 or cdoherty@wasterecycling.org.

Begin with the Bin

Begin with the Bin is a public education resource developed by the National Waste & Recycling Association. The site offers information and resources related to the waste and recycling industries. Visit and learn more at beginwiththebin.org.

Land Reuse

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The solid waste industry has partnered with many communities throughout the country to create beneficial uses of closed landfills, creating commercial, recreational and other community benefits.

Many modern landfills support wildlife habitats, natural wetlands and community facilities where schoolchildren and others can learn about environmental stewardship, waste reduction, recycling and other “green” activities. Other landfill reuse projects include development of recreational areas like golf courses and bike parks, adding health and well-being amenities to a number of communities nationwide. Decommissioned and redeveloped landfill areas can still act as active landfill gas collection sites, allowing for continued landfill-gas-to-energy benefits.

Environmentalists. Every Day.

Land is successfully being remediated and returned to community use. Below are several examples of how our industry is reimagining former landfill spaces.

New York Turns Largest Landfill into Large Urban Park

In 1986, Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, NY, became the largest operational landfill in the United States. At its busiest, 20 barges carrying as much as 650 tons of garbage each, were offloaded there every day. Some claim the landfill to be the largest manmade “structure” on Earth, due to its volume which eventually exceeded the Great Wall of China. In 2001, its peak was 25 meters taller than the Statue of Liberty. It became a popular myth that Fresh Kills was large enough to be seen from outer space (it was not).

Under pressure from local residents and with the support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fresh Kills was closed in 2002. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation announced a plan to convert the former landfill into one of the nation’s largest city parks. At 2,200 acres, Freshkills Park will be almost three times the size of Central Park and the largest park developed in the city in a century. The site is composed of former landfill operation areas, wetlands, open waterways, and unfilled lowland areas. The tops of the landfill mounds offer spectacular vistas of the expansive park site, as well as views of downtown Manhattan.

The transformation of the landfill into a vast, productive and beautiful cultural destination makes the park a bright example of urban renewal and demonstrates that use of former landfills. Through landfill gas collection, the park is also providing nearly $12 million in natural gas revenues to the city. The build-out is planned to occur in phases for the next 30 years. The initial development will focus on providing public access to the interior of the site and showcasing its unusual combination of natural and engineered beauty.

To learn more about Freshkills Park, visit the NYC Parks website.

Watch a 4-minute episode about Freshkills Park from the show It’s My Park.

Waste Management Creates Elephant Preserve

Former landfills have been reclaimed by many communities, and now support wildlife habitats, natural wetlands, community facilities and recreational areas like golf courses and bike parks. In Florida, a notable example is the National Elephant Center, a model for elephant care and conservation that is being developed with the help and land from Waste Management.

"Elephants are among our most endangered animals in the world, and their future depends on innovative programs that integrate science, research, education and animal care expertise. The National Elephant Center will play a vital role in addressing the critical need for elephant population management and will be an international resource in elephant conservation," said center Board President Mark C. Reed. "Waste Management’s support of the project will help provide a perfect home for our elephants and programs."

The center, located on 300 acres of Waste Management property in Okeechobee, Florida, will include open space for elephants to roam and explore while providing a variety of natural waterholes for wallowing. This site is adjacent to property Waste Management maintains as a Wildlife Habitat Council-certified natural area for threatened Florida sandhill cranes and other species. About 900 acres of open space separate the center from Waste Management’s nearby sanitary landfill.

"When we look at our landfills, we see them as a form of recycling - beneficial reuse of the land at our sites," said Waste Management CEO David Steiner. "We are proud of our ability to provide one of our landfill resources for a program that helps ensure the future of one of nature’s most majestic creatures, elephants."

Republic Services Caps Landfill with Flexible Solar Cover

Republic Services, Inc. continues to greatly increase renewable energy output at its landfills. The company combined a first-of-its-kind solar technology with an existing biogas-to-energy system to turn its Tessman Road Landfill in San Antonio into a sustainable energy park. Republic’s solar power project won a gold medal from the Texas Council of Engineering Companies Engineering Excellence Awards in December 2009.

Republic’s green energy venture covers portions of closed areas of active landfills with flexible, laminate-type photovoltaic solar collection strips developed by United Solar. The flexible solar laminates, which capture the sun’s rays for conversion into electricity, are adhered directly to a Firestone-manufactured synthetic green-colored geomembrane used to cover and close a landfill as it reaches capacity. Unlike the more traditional rigid solar panels, which are bulky and frequently cost-prohibitive to install, Republic’s system uses flexible nonreflective collection strips less than 1/4 inch thick.

The flexible solar strips can be configured to maximize the hours of sunlight exposure throughout the year, depending upon a landfill’s design and site contours. For its demonstration project at the Tessman Road facility, Republic partnered with CPS Energy, greater San Antonio’s electric and natural gas provider, to deploy 5.6 acres of the 680-acre landfill with the solar energy cover, attaching over 1,000 solar strips to the landfill’s south facing side slope. The project became fully operational in March, 2009.

“As the nation’s largest municipally-owned gas and electric company, we’re proud that our customers’ energy bills are among the lowest in the country,” said Milton Lee, general manager and CEO. “We are able to do this by providing a diverse mix of fuels and renewable energy sources that combined offer reliable, cost-competitive electric service. Working together with Republic and the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, we are at the forefront of yet another useful way to tap the energy resources of landfills for the benefit of our customers.”

The solar cover complements the landfill’s existing biogas-to-energy system, in operation since 2002. The system collects and processes biogas, which is naturally produced at the landfill through the decomposition of waste. The solar strips, which have flexible photovoltaic silicon cells that convert sunlight directly into electricity, will increase the amount of renewable energy provided by the landfill.

With over 300 days of sunlight in San Antonio per year, Republic estimates that the energy produced by the two fully-operational systems, will continuously create about nine megawatts of power - enough to power 5,500 area homes.

“As part of our commitment to creating cleaner, greener communities, we’re continually researching, developing and implementing innovative technologies to help us preserve and conserve our natural resources,” said Ted Neura, senior director, sustainable business planning and development for Republic Services.

“The solar energy cover is easier to inspect, maintain and repair than a traditional clay cap, and is technically superior in terms of odor control and storm water management,” said Tony Walker, project manager for Republic. “Geomembrane covers are already in use across the country, but Republic is the first to integrate flexible solar cell technology to create an energy-producing cover system. We look forward to working with state regulators across the country to capitalize on the opportunities provided by landfills and, specifically, our efforts to further the country’s energy independence movement through new sources of solar power.”

Due to the success of the Tessman project, in 2011 Republic applied the same solar technology to the Hickory Ridge Landfill outside of Atlanta, Georgia.