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This month I had the opportunity to take a guided bus tour of Texas Disposal Systems. Yes, I visited the place where our garbage ends up! This was a field trip organized by SXSW Eco, a conference I was attending, which was held at the Austin Convention Center. The trip was definitely one of the highlights of the conference.

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Our group loaded onto a comfortable, air conditioned, cruise bus and headed south on Route 35 for about 25 minutes to the Creedmoor exit. Texas Disposal Systems is located in Creedmoor on Rt 1327.

The facility is over 2000 acres and contains a landfill, recycling and composting operation, and an exotic game ranch with over 120 different species of animals. The site had a constant flow of garbage trucks coming from Austin since TDS handles the majority of Austin’s garbage and recycling.

We first saw the resale center, also known as “Aust2014-10-08 11.08.49in’s largest unadvertised garage sale” where sinks, washers, dryers, windows, toys, electronics, among other things are sold. A small crowd of people show up everyday to see what treasures they can find for themselves or to resell at market. If you need a used washer or dryer, this is a great place to look. Every washer/dryer is repaired before being sold at a steep discount!

We drove past the massive landfill mound on our way to the composting area. Our guide, one of the owners of TDS, explained that most landfills require a liner between the base of the mound and trash. The liner is not necessary at this location because the clay (darker grey area in photo) is impervious to liquids.2014-10-08 11.22.33 This presents a significant savings since the cost of this liner is approximately $300,000 per acre. The landfill is approximately 352 acres and is one of the most environmentally conscious landfills in the United States. TDS is the only landfill in the US to be endorsed by the Sierra Club. I noticed there was not a strong garbage smell on site. This is the result of a small working face for the day’s garbage.

 

The working face is the rectangle of garbage on the top of the mound in this video. After the trash is dumped, a tractor spreads, flattens, then covers the trash with soil.

 

One of the highlights of the trip was the Exotic Game Ranch.

The game ranch is a non-hunting ranch and is not open to the general public. The ranch area and on-site pavilion space are donated by TDS to non-profits for fundraising events. TDS boasts that they have supported non-profit organizations in raising over $44 million. We were able to see the gazelles, emu, ostriches, and other deer-like species but were not allowed to view the cats (Bengel Tigers) and primates.

Some photos from the recycling center, our last stop.

 

Bundles of plastic to be recycled.

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Piles of cans.

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 Mounds of glass.

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It was amazing to see how many businesses are created from our trash. In addition to the on-site resale center, TDS sells compost, soil, and mulch to area landscaping contractors, big-box stores, as well as their own Garden-Ville stores. There is metal artist who recycles metal products into art and sells them on-site and in stores. Some recycled materials are also sold back to manufacturers who make consumer products. One man’s junk is definitely another man’s treasure down at Texas Disposal Systems.

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