Where Alachua County’s Solid Waste Goes After It Leaves Your Home

Darrell O’Neal, New River’s executive director.
Darrell O’Neal, New River Regional Landfill’s executive director.

Often, people have a predisposed idea of where their trash goes whether it’s the nearest dumpster or incinerator. In reality, it depends on where you live, but as far as Alachua County, waste gets dumped 36 miles in another county.

Everyone in Alachua County produces some type of waste, but they don’t always know where it goes to after it leaves their home.

Alachua County produces an annual average of 175,000 tons of waste — equivalent to the weight of about 2.1 million Americans. The Alachua County Landfill closed down in 1998 when it reached its maximum capacity, and the community decided not to open a new one.

Since then, Alachua County signed a contract to dispose its waste at the New River Regional Landfill, 24276 NE 157th St. in Raiford.

The waste disposal process starts in the community where trash gets collected. The trash is then transported to the Leveda Brown Environmental Park and Transfer Facility, 5115 NE 63 Ave. in Gainesville. Here, trash is screened for prohibited waste and hazardous materials such as tires, industrial appliances, medical goods, etc.

Then, employees try to get as many as 87,000 pounds of general waste according to David Wood, the facility’s director. The waste is compacted, and once they reach an acceptable gross weight, a truck drives the waste 36 miles to the New River Landfill. Woods said four loads of waste are transported to New River each day.

A truck parked at the transfer facility in Gainesville. (Diana Maglioni/WUFT News)
Trucks loaded with waste depart the transfer facility in Gainesville for the landfill in Union County. (Diana Maglioni/WUFT News)

The New River landfill opened in 1992 when three counties, Union, Baker, and Bradford counties, got together to collectively dispose of their waste.

Other counties began using New River for their waste disposal because the three host counties were not generating enough waste to financially maintain the landfill, said Jimmy Beasley, solid waste Director of Union County.

Alachua County has been their biggest waste contributor since 1998, said Darrell O’Neal, New River’s executive director. Not only does Alachua County contribute most of New River’s waste, it also accounts for 70 percent of the landfill’s annual revenue. So far, this fiscal year, Alachua County has transported over 172,000 tons to waste to New River at a cost of over five million dollars.

Residents of Alachua County cover this expense through a property tax or a utility bill based on where they live, said Milton Towns, waste collection manager of Alachua County. Unincorporated Alachua County residents pay for waste disposal through a non-ad-valorem property tax, which means it is set at the same rate based on the value of the service, not on the value of the home. Those who live in Gainesville get billed each month through GRU.

Alachua County’s current contract with New River Landfill expires in 2018. Milton Towns said the county will soon consider future disposal options. Cost is a major concern for future waste disposal. Towns said because “[they] are paying a tip fee for disposal that will be paid regardless of where it has to be disposed of,” residents would not see a major decrease in their waste fees if the county decided to dispose its waste at another location. Towns said residents can help to reduce that disposal cost the most by recycling.

About Maleeha Babar

Maleeha is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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