Trash is collected and sent for end-disposal to landfills located throughout Ohio. Find a waste transfer station.

See Earth911's five-part series about managing the materials we discard.

Part 1: Understanding Where Garbage Goes
Part 2: How Sanitary Landfills Work
Part 3: How Commercial Composting Works
Part 4: How Waste Incineration Works
Part 5: How Curbside Recycling Works

How Trash Gets to a Landfill

Trash is picked up in a collection truck curbside on trash day. In Cuyahoga County, trash is collected by an automated truck or manually with a packer truck. The automated truck picks up a wheeled cart with a mechanical side-arm and empties the trash into the truck. Trash picked up manually is thrown into a truck by a worker. 

The collection truck drops all the neighborhood trash at a waste transfer station. The trash truck passes over a scale and is weighed as it arrives. Trash is dumped from the truck onto the tipping floor, and the empty collection truck is weighed again as it leaves.


In Cuyahoga County, there are nine waste transfer stations that are operated by either local communities or private companies.   

Trash is scooped up from the transfer station's tipping floor and loaded onto large semi-trailer trucks. When it is full, the semi-trailer passes over a scale and is weighed as it leaves the waste transfer station. The semi transports the trash to a designated landfill.

The semi arrives at the landfill and passes over another a scale. At the working face of the landfill, the trash is pushed out of the truck by walking floors or lifting the trailer bed (pictured). The empty semi-trailer is weighed one last time on the way out.

At the working face, the dumped trash is moved around by bulldozers and compactors to maximize space in the landfill. A layer of dirt is used to cover the trash at the end of every day.

The landfill operators maintain the site in a variety of ways. The landfill has a fence to keep people out, but also to prevent litter from blowing off site. Since a landfill has dirt roads, the operators must water the roads on hot, dry days to prevent flying dust and debris.

How a New Landfill is Built

Landfills are dug out from the ground. The landfill is lined with a layer of clay and a second layer (or liner) of plastic. Safety systems to collect leachate and methane gas have to be installed before the landfill can accept any trash. Permits must be issued before a landfill can be built or operated. See the Ohio EPA for more information.

Old (Closed) Landfills

Landfills will eventually meet capacity and are closed. Once they are closed, they are no longer allowed to accept trash and must be monitored for 30 years. Operators must comply with federal and state regulations throughout the entire process. See the US EPA's website for more information.


This is the view from the top of a mountain of trash at an old landfill in Solon, Ohio. This landfill provides landfill gas to a nearby business, which is used to cook food.