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How Junk Haulers Dispose of Unwanted Junk

By February 13, 2023 No Comments

Ever wonder where all of that junk goes after it’s been hauled away from your property in a trailer? Junk haulers have a lot of different ways to get rid of junk, so if you’re considering the environmental impact of junk removal services, it’s a perfectly fair question to be asking.

While it’s impractical to list the waste streams of every individual junk hauler in the United States, we can look at the national picture to see where waste generally ends up as well as the incentives in place for junk haulers to choose landfill diversion and more eco-friendly practices.

How Junk Haulers Dispose of Unwanted Junk Junk Removal Near Me

Where does waste end up?

As the old adage goes, ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure,’ so the definition of junk can really vary from person to person. To keep all other things constant, we’ll consider all waste generated in the United States, within which household junk is included.

Generally, there are five main ways that waste is processed in the United States. The exact methods can vary by state and county. They include:


Most ordinary household trash and garbage ends up in a landfill, which is simply a dedicated space to dump certain types of waste that cannot be feasibly recycled or composted. Around half of all waste generated in the United States in 2018 ended up in a landfill, among which the biggest types of waste being dumped in landfills were:

  • Food (24%)
  • Plastic (18%)
  • Paper & paperboard (12%)
  • Metals (10%)
  • Yard trimmings (7%)
  • Wood (8%)
  • Glass (5%)

It’s worth noting that modern landfills built according to EPA standards are an awful lot less of an environmental hazard than landfills from decades past. Modern landfills are equipped with protective liners to reduce leaching and seepage, efficient drainage systems, methane & carbon dioxide gas management systems, and efficient compaction methods to lessen pollution effects.

Recycling facilities

An important ‘R’ of the three R’s, recycling is an ideal method of waste management for certain types of waste. Of the nearly 69 million tons of waste generated in the US in 2018, the main types of recyclable waste were:

  • Paper & paperboard (66%)
  • Metals (13%)
  • Rubber, leather and textiles (6%)
  • Wood, glass, plastics, etc. (4-5% each)


Along with recycling, composting is an ideal way to dispose of organic matter such as yard waste and food scraps. All compost requires four key ingredients to fertilize soils: soil, water, oxygen, and organic waste in the process of decomposition.

Organic compost has multiple applications, such as fertilizing gardens, agricultural settings including bio-feed and anaerobic digestion, sewer and wastewater treatment, and more.


The incineration of waste can be an effective way to convert it into useable energy. Incineration facilities are often referred to as ‘waste-to-energy’ facilities and the process is often used interchangeably with ‘combustion,’ which renders various types of waste into two by-products: ash and useable electricity. The ash can be subsequently sent to a landfill, where it occupies far less space than ordinary waste.

Incineration is more popular in Europe than it is in North America, where we tend to either process waste ourselves with alternative means or ship it abroad.


Donating waste that is useable (in other words, junk) is a great way to process it, and it’s a metric that you won’t find on the EPA’s statistics for waste management in the United States simply because it never enters the waste stream directly. Why? Donated junk is often sold as-is or is refurbished for resale or charitable donation to those in need.

Donations technically fulfil all three R’s of reduce, reuse and recycle, so they’re an ideal way to benefit the environment while also getting unwanted junk off your hands.

Materials waste and recycling rates in the United States

Total municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in the United States

We’ve already gone over some of the figures for the types of waste that are processed via landfills and recycling facilities, but how much total waste is being generated in the United States and where does it go?

How Junk Haulers Dispose of Unwanted Junk Junk Removal Near Me

Data source: National Overview: Facts and Figures on Materials, Wastes and Recycling, EPA

The above chart shows that exactly half of all waste generated in the US ends up in a landfill, nearly a quarter is recycled, and the remainder is either composted or combusted via incineration.

What isn’t being shown, however, is how much is being donated because there is no waste entering the stream as the waste is repurposed. An old sofa that can be reupholstered, for example, then given to a family in need or sold at a discount can make someone quite happy in their home for a few years, while also reducing waste from ending up in the landfill.

Recycling & composting in the United States

Around 38% of all waste generated in the US is either recycled or composted. Naturally, one could argue that this figure should be much higher as there are environmental benefits to recycling and composting, as well as the creation of byproducts that can feed into a circular economy model. Regardless, it is important to note that not all recyclables are processed equally. See the below chart for an impression of how much specific waste items are recycled or composted:

How Junk Haulers Dispose of Unwanted Junk Junk Removal Near Me

Data source: National Overview: Facts and Figures on Materials, Wastes and Recycling, EPA

The total recycling rate in the US is estimated to be around 32.1% (as of 2018), which means that a lot of recyclables are still not ending up in the recycling waste stream, i.e. they’re tossed into landfills or incinerated. Although the figure has drastically increased in the past six decades, it also shows that there are still many inefficiencies in waste management practices.

How junk haulers dispose of unwanted junk

Junk haulers in the US don’t have any secret methods to disposing of junk; if they claim to, it’s a red flag that you could be dealing with a cowboy looking to illegally dump on someone else’s property. Legitimate and reputable junk haulers have access to all of the above waste processing facilities, but they’ve got to pay to have that waste processed just like you would if you drove your vehicle up to the facility.

On average, landfill dumping costs around $53.04/ton (as of 2021), with fees in northeastern states generally being among the highest at around $69.94/ton. Therefore, junk haulers will pass on these fees to you in order to cover their costs.

What this means is that junk haulers are incentivized to seek methods of waste disposal that divert as much as possible from the landfill, thus keeping costs lower and more competitive. This is a benefit for you, for the junk hauler, and for the environment: a win-win-win scenario, provided that the junk hauler is using legitimate means of disposal and not engaging in illegal dumping.

It is for these reasons that most independent junk haulers have good rapport and connections with donation centers, charitable organizations, local churches, metal scrapyards, or anyone else that can more efficiently process junk.

For example, if an old refrigerator can be refurbished, many charities will be happy to take it for free and sell it to someone in need at a discount. If it can’t be feasibly refurbished, the junk hauler can sell it to a scrapyard and turn a profit while the scrapyard renders the refrigerator down into recyclable scrap metals for resale on the commodities market.

It is by operating in this sort of manner that a junk hauler is essentially providing arbitrage for waste and unwanted junk. They’re incentivized to keep prices competitive for you, the customer, while also finding efficient ways of waste disposal.

How to get rid of junk

If you need to de-clutter your property, you could just do it all yourself. But have you got a trailer and enough space to safely fit all of the junk? Do you know where to take it? Are you willing to idle your car in a smelly old landfill while waiting to dump your junk? Depending on what you need to get rid of – and how much – you could be biting off more than you can chew.

Why not leave the job to an honest and hardworking junk hauler near you? They have the muscle, vehicle, and expertise needed to remove all sorts of unwanted junk from your residential or commercial property and to dispose of it in the most efficient manner, all for fair and affordable prices.



My role is to fact check original and engaging content published on the JunkGator website. I like to consider myself somewhat of an expert on eco-friendly waste management.