FORT WORTH, Texas -- By 2020, Fort Worth is projected to be the 12th largest city in the country, and that rapid growth is quickly filling up a precious resource, the city landfill.
All of Fort Worth's residential garbage as well as construction debris and other waste is deposited in the city-owned Southeast Landfill on Salt Road. The facility looms over the landscape, with truck after truck dropping off garbage.
About 784,000 tons of waste were dumped there last year, and it's filling up far faster than expected. In 2011, the facility had an estimated lifespan of 50 years, but it has been cut in half, down to 25 years.
"It is tied to the growth trends that we see in the community," said Brandon Bennett, Director of Code Compliance for the city. "It's mind-boggling to think that we could even make it another 25 years when you look at the sheer volume of waste that comes in here every single day."
Finding a new dump could cost the city a heap of money, but there are ways to extend the landfill's life. The city is considering new rules limiting what can be dumped there, particularly building materials and construction debris that fill the bulk of the site. They are also seeking to encourage businesses and households to increase recycling.
"Everyone wins when you recycle," said Bennett.
Picking through the garbage, it's clear just how much of the landfill waste could be recycled. Newspapers, plastic, glass, and other recyclable materials dot the pile. Once it is dumped here, it is too late for sorting, so the city is asking for the public's help. Eventually, they may charge more to customers who don't sort recyclables.
"We will reward those who recycle more," said Bennett. "In fact, their rates might not even go up."