Where Does Our Trash Go? Let’s Explore Spokane!

By Mason Neil, Youth Environmental Specialist

I use my trash can every day, but I’ve rarely stopped to think about what happens to my waste after I’ve bagged it, hauled it to the curb, and watched it drive away in the trash truck.  

Most places use landfills—carefully monitored reservoirs in the ground where trash is buried and left to sit for a very, very long time. But in Spokane, because our drinking water is underground and because landfills have historically polluted our water, we burn our trash instead. This process takes place at the Waste to Energy facility near our airport.  

Burning trash may sound scary, and it does require a lot of technical skill and know-how. But the process is actually very safe: trash is burned, the smoke is captured and scrubbed to minimize pollution, and the whole process generates a lot of heat, and therefore a lot of electricity. There’s no perfect solution to getting rid of our trash, but turning waste to energy is often the much better choice than landfilling waste where it can potentially pollute our environment.  

It takes a lot of people to see to it that this process runs smoothly. Earlier this year I got to meet a few of the people involved and see how fascinating turning waste to energy is up close and in person. See for yourself in the video below! 


Want to learn more? Check out these reading suggestions available from the Spokane Public Library: