Got Trash? With Landfill Space Decreasing, Fort Worth Ups Efforts to Divert Waste

More people in Fort Worth means more housing, more restaurants and more retail — but also, more trash.

by Jenelle Langford

More people in Fort Worth means more housing, more restaurants and more retail — but also, more trash.

According to the City of Fort Worth, residents and businesses generate approximately 784,008 tons of municipal solid waste annually, equal to 2,562 tons per day. As a result, Fort Worth’s Southeast Landfill, located on Salt Road off Interstate 20, is decreasing at a faster rate than desired.

In response, the City Plan Commission teamed up with consulting firm Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, Inc. to analyze the amount of garbage collected annually and create one of the city’s largest green initiatives to-date — a 20-year solid waste plan. The Fort Worth City Council adopted the plan in September 2017 with the intention of turning garbage diversion into a hot recycling trend. A little over a year later, 15 of the 132 action items on the plan have been completed, the details of which will be presented to the city council at a future date.

Aims of the plan include engaging and promoting environmental stewardship, roadmapping for future policy considerations and preserving the Southeast Landfill.

“You can only put so much in a landfill,” says Chris Harper, contract services administrator of the Fort Worth Code Compliance Department, which works with the city’s Solid Waste Services department to manage garbage and recycling. “We encourage reuse — trying to preserve that [landfill] as long as possible, which will keep the city of Fort Worth from having to go other routes.”

The study also prompted the city to target businesses and industries, which are responsible for two thirds of the city’s total waste. The city currently has planners gathering information about businesses’ current waste procedures and informing them of the resources available to revise and improve disposal.

As of 2014, only 24 percent of the city had diverted waste from the Southeast Landfill by opting to utilize recycling. With a new management plan in motion, Fort Worth hopes to raise the percentage up to 40 by the year 2037.

Harper says recycling and reuse are a large solution to the growing problem. Residents and businesses can donate gently used items such as clothing, home appliances, tools, furniture and alike, toward local organizations and charities as an alternative to raw disposal.

Two of the many options available in Fort Worth are the Help-Yourself-Shelf, located at the Environmental Collection Center at 6400 Bridge St., which accepts unused or slightly-used chemicals, paint or cleaners, and Goodwill donation stations/drop-off centers. Residents opting to donate items at Goodwill stations have the option to receive a tax receipt in return. A list of other local organizations that accept donations can be found at fortworthtexas.gov/solidwaste/reuse.

In addition to the 20-year plan, the city has created a Fort Worth Garbage & Recycle app for local residents to improve disposal habits they may have never considered. Robert Smouse, assistant director of Solid Waste Services, says the app has been the driving force behind the decreasing rate of residential waste.

The free app includes features that will notify the user of collection days for garbage, recycle, yard and bulk waste. The app can notify users via text message, email, voice message or push notifications.

“To encourage the Fort Worth community to stay the course on supporting not only recycling but rethinking waste,” Smouse says Solid Waste Services will also host monthly events for residents to learn and ask questions about proper disposal habits. Information on these meetings can be found at fortworthtexas.gov/kfwb.

As awareness and education efforts increase in the growing city, Harper says change in disposal habits all comes down to believing in the bigger picture.

“It’s all kind of an ecosystem,” he says. “Nothing is independent.”