How Waste Management Companies Make Money In USA


All countries continue to generate a huge amount of waste as their population grows. In 2022 world bank predicted that waste generation will increase up to 70% from 2.01 billion tonnes to 3.40 billion tonnes in 2050.   

Currently, the USA is the world’s third waste-generating country in the world after Canada and Bulgaria.USA produced the most municipal solid waste in the world – generating 258 million tonnes of garbage every year and about 4.9 pounds per person. Some view as this a threat to the environment and society others see it as an opportunity. Below we tried to find out how waste management companies make money in usa  

How Waste Is Processed Inside Landfill

When people think of a landfill the first thing that comes to mind is that endless field of garbage with unbearable odor. But modern landfalls are well maintained, with no toxic odor.

1965 solid waste disposal act and Resource Conservation and Recovery act 1976 extended the control over waste disposal for landfill owners. Open dumps where garbage is dropped are currently illegal in the USA. When garbages are taken to a sanitary landfill they are disposed of in the open section known as Cell. The cell is a man-made large waste chamber protected by reinforced plastic known as linear to protect against the leakage of harmful liquid in soil.

The liquid inside Cell is collected at the bottom part of the landfill. Those collected liquids are removed through the chemical reaction of sand, and the pebble inside a pipe. The above waste material is constantly squeezed with bulldozers and other compaction equipment. The trash is properly covered to protect from sun, rain, and pests until the cell reached its maximum capacity. After reaching its maximum capacity final cover is placed over the cell and monitored for a maximum of 30 years to ensure the cell does not harm the environment by leaking liquid and gas emissions.    

How Landfill Owner Makes Money In the USA

Landfill owners charge a fee as per the amount of garbage. Before dipping the garbage in the cell they measure the weight of the garbage and charge as per ton. That fee is called the Tipping fee and it is the main source of income for the landfill owner. In 2020 municipal solid waste had an average tipping fee of $53.72 per ton.

In the USA small landfill generates approximately $1.4 million a year and large landfill generates $43.5 million a year. In the last four decades, tipping fees increased up to 133%.In 1982 the national average tipping fee in USA stands at $8.07 per ton.

The tipping fee varies according to the location of the landfills. The lack of disposal options and high density of people is the primary reason for the high tipping fee. It also depends on the cost of building the landfill. It is easier to dig a landfill in west Pennsylvania compare to Ohio. The tipping fee in west Pennsylvania is high due to the shallow rock level on the surface.

Besides tipping fees, landfill companies discovered new easy to make money from their garbage. They are making profits from Landfill mining and reclamation is on them. It’s a process of extracting metals from waste and reprocessing them. Some metal is not biodegradable in the environment and stands in landfill forever, landfill mining is a good solution to make money from unwanted metals.

Some experts termed landfill mining to make profits as very expensive. However, some experts and landfill owners said landfill mining can be profitable if done smartly. Recycled metals create space for more waste, and can be used to earn more tipping fees rather than looking for a new landfill.

Landfill mining can be used to produce energy. When garbages decays inside a landfill cell it produces harmful greenhouse gas methane. 10.5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity are generated every year from landfill gas which is enough to provide electricity to up to 810000 homes. It reduces greenhouse gas from the environment by turning them into electricity.

Cost Of Building A Landfill

Owning a landfill requires a huge investment. A landfill can cost about $1.1 to $1.7 million. According to the 1994 Resource Conservation Recovery Act, every landfill owner has to pay the Landfill maintenance fee for 30 years with or without earning. Currently, the majority of the landfill are acquired by municipal corporations and private companies in the USA. In 2009 only 1900  landfills are publicly owned compared to 7900 in 1988. Two major waste management private companies in USA Republic Services and Waste Management own 293 and 186 landfills respectively out of 2627 active landfills across the USA. Some landfills are run in a hybrid system, owned by the local governing body but operated by private companies.   

Mining techniques, tipping fees, and government subsidiaries make the waste management industry profitable. Waste management turning out to be a booming industry. More private companies are interested to step inside the industry.

More: Why American Workers Are Not Paid Enough Wages

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