Visual: Garbage can being placed beside green bin at the curb; title appears.
What happens to my garbage?
Visual: Garbage truck is approaching.
Every two weeks, a collection crew shows up to pick up your garbage.
Visual: Truck stops, collection operator picks up garbage, empties contents into vehicle.
Up to 40 trucks make more than 1,000 stops a day. Each waste collection operator walks 21 kilometres during a 10-hour shift – a half marathon! – while lifting 10 tonnes of material.
Visual: Garbage truck driving off.
The collection vehicles crush materials to reduce load volume and decrease trips to the landfill.
Visual: Garbage truck driving onto scale.
When trucks are full, they head to the Trail Road Waste Facility, south-west of Barrhaven.
Visual: Truck being weighed.
All trucks are weighed when they arrive, and again when they leave, so the City can track how much waste is entering the facility.
Visual: Truck leaving scale.
On average, Trail Road receives 1,000 tonnes of garbage per day.
Visual: Lynne Hammond, Heavy Equipment Operator, standing in front of scale house, wearing bright yellow safety gear.
“The vehicles, when they arrive at our landfill, drive up onto our scale house here behind me.
Visual: Pick-up truck with trailer driving onto scale.
The scale attendants process 600 vehicles a day. They guide everyone on where they need to go and take payments from those customers who have to pay a tipping fee.”
Visual: Bird’s eye view of small loads area.
At the small loads area, materials can be dropped off for reuse or recycling.
Visual: Signs for e-waste and recycling drop-off; piles of tires, scrap metal and electronic waste.
There is no charge for glass, metal, plastic, tires, scrap metal and electronic waste. Brush and cardboard are accepted for a small fee.
Visual: Bird’s eye view of freshly added garbage; garbage truck dumping its load.
Any vehicle that brings in a load for disposal, big or small, gets directed to the tipping face.
Visual: Lynne standing on tipping face; compactor crushing garbage.
“The tipping face is the active zone at the edge of a landfill. This mountain of garbage we’re standing on grows everyday, which means the tipping face moves continuously.”
Visual: Garbage truck getting weighed on scale on its way out. Bird’s eye view of tipping face, close-ups of heavy equipment in action.
Collection trucks head back to the scale house after they are emptied. Heavy equipment operators compact newly added waste with an enormous bulldozer and a packer to flatten it as much as possible. Other measures are taken for safety, sustainability and odour control.
Visual: Lynne at the tipping face, pointing to fence in the background; handler with brown falcon on her glove; special vehicle unreeling tarp to cover garbage at night.
“We put up fences around the site to stop garbage such as plastic bags from flying onto the highway nearby. We hire a company that brings in hawks and falcons to deter the seagulls from coming onto the site and spreading the garbage. The tipping face at night is covered with a tarp, soil and woodchips.”
Visual: Workers applying a black cover to decommissioned area; that same area shown from above, partly covered with sand.
Once an area is full, it is sealed with a raincoat-like barrier and various layers of soil, then topped with grass.
Visual: Drone flight over the whole site, from oldest to newest part, most of it looking like a big green hill.
The Trail Road landfill opened in 1980, and the area that is now full is much bigger than the active area. The overall waste footprint is 85 hectares—more than 150 football fields wide. But how much space is left?
Visual: Back at tipping face; unloading and compacting shown from above.
In 2021, we learned that our landfill could reach capacity as early as between 2036 and 2038 if we keep doing what we’re doing. But if all residents strive to create less garbage together, it can last longer.
So, what else happens at Trail Road?
Visual: Bird’s eye view of landfill’s power plant.
The City’s Waste Facility is a highly engineered site. A lot of effort goes into protecting the environment.
Visual: A row of three bright blue poles in grassy area.
Groundwater is monitored carefully, …
Visual: Leachate (garbage juice) facility shown from various angles; foam-covered brown liquid bubbling in basin; tank truck arriving, worker inserting hose to fill tank; close-up of control panel.
… and leachate is collected and pre-treated right at Trail. Leachate – or garbage juice in layman’s terms – is a mix of liquids from wet waste and added rain or snow. After 24 hours in a settling basin, tankers take it to ROPEC, the City’s wastewater treatment plant.
Visual: Gas utilization facility shown from different angles; building with generators, ducts and power lines; close up of gas well with orange tube on decommissioned area.
PowerTrail is a private-public partnership that generates electricity from landfill gas, powering 6,000 homes and businesses. CO2 and methane form when organic matter decomposes in the absence of oxygen. Wells capture these harmful greenhouse gases to prevent them from entering the atmosphere.
Visual: Conveyor belt and excavator between windrows, moving compostable material; potting soil sign and heap of soil for sale at Trail Road.
At an outdoor composting facility, leaf and yard waste is turned into potting soil and then sold to residents so they can reuse it in their own yards or community gardens.
Visual: Glass and steel entrance of modern grey building; wide angle of whole front; drone footage from back of building with four large gates side by side.
The administration building was designed with a Silver LEED green building certification, housing offices in the front and a garage in the back.
Visual: Lynne getting out of a pick-up truck, then standing in front of open gate; water truck spraying on dirt road, big truck parking in garage, compactor slowly moving through gate on big steel studded wheels.
“This building here behind me is where we store, clean and maintain our heavy equipment. Such as the water truck for dust control, our rock trucks for soil management, and then of course our compactor and bulldozer. Our compactor weighs 56 tonnes – that’s the weight of six elephants!”
Visual: Worker in safety vest closing and locking the gate in front of scale house; gate rolls down behind bulldozer parked in garage.
After a long day, they are stored in the garage. At 7 am the next morning, the Waste Facility will open again, and the collection crews will bring in more garbage. Your garbage.
Visual: Person putting something into a green bin and closing lid; other person setting out blue and black bin; collection operators emptying recycling containers into collection vehicles; truck driving off.
Good news: If you make full use of your green bin and recycling bins, you can keep 75 per cent of your waste out of the landfill, but the best way to reduce waste is to avoid creating it.
Visual: Animated cityscape appears, with a small garbage truck slowly crossing screen from left to right. Words and symbols appear in animated sky above.
- Buy less.
- Repair more.
- Choose reusable containers.
- Refuse unnecessary packaging.
- Sell, swap, donate, regift or repurpose what you no longer need.
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With your help, our landfill will last longer.
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Not sure what goes in which bin? Visit ottawa.ca/wasteexplorer.
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