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Wake County Landfill Buys 10 More Years

Trash at a state landfill.
N.C. Division of Waste Management

The amount of garbage headed to the Wake County has dropped significantly in the past few years.

In 2009, the county buried 460,000 tons of garbage. That dropped to 400,000 last year.

Wake County Solid Waste Manager John Roberson says a number of factors impacted the reduction in waste going to the landfill: People bought and threw out less during the recession, recycling options improved, and commercial waste businesses disposed of garbage elsewhere.

Roberson says his division saw a $2 million drop in revenue over the past four years.

“From a financial perspective, we could see that as a negative. But we've done our best to view it as a positive in that it will allow our landfill to last more than the originally designed 25 years.”

The Wake County landfill was projected to fill up in the year 2033, but Roberson says the decrease has bought the landfill another 10 years of productivity.

He says Wake County doesn't know what it will do after its landfill runs out of space. Other communities in the region are shipping their garbage to facilities with more room, which is an expensive option. Technology exists to convert garbage into energy, but that costs about three times as much as simply burying it.

Roberson says he's optimistic that the county's options will improve by the time the landfill is full.

“I certainly think that gives us more time to plan, as far as what that next waste disposal method is. It gives more time for whatever those technologies are to develop, to become more cost efficient, that may allow us to choose something other than shipping the waste out of county.”

The Raleigh area is expected to grow rapidly during that time. But Roberson says the county has enough waste-diversion methods in place to keep the landfill from filling up prematurely.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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