Texas Campaign for the Environment: landfills

waste not, want not

Landfills in Texas are, literally, a growing problem. The Lone Star State alone has 12 landfills towering above 200 feet tall. There’s no shortage of landfill space, either. Texas counties have, on average, over 40 years of reserve capacity. We even have 3 landfills with over 2000 years of space!

Mega-landfill companies constantly claim more (and bigger) landfills are needed, repeating "the trash has to go somewhere" as if landfills are the only possible solution. Fortunately this is far from true and many better alternatives do exist -- but it will take effective education and advocacy to shape a future without dumps. Click here to contact your state legislators.

Trash is more than just an eyesore -- it's become clear that waste also contributes to global climate change. Landfills are the biggest human-caused source of methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas. Trash incinerators also produce nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Reducing waste and recycling more helps in the fight against global warming by eliminating landfill gasses and saving much of the energy (and carbon emissions) required to make products from virgin materials. Landfill neighbors often join environmentalists to move the discussion far beyond stereotypical “not in my backyard” arguments. Learn more about waste and climate change.

A better solution, achievable now

Zero waste is at once both the concept and the goal of eliminating waste altogether. Just as there is no waste in nature, proponents argue that the very idea of waste is unnecessary. Of course, advocates don’t expect literally no waste at all, but often use a 90% reduction as a benchmark. Austin has become this first Texas city to commit to zero waste as its goal. However, dozens of cities around the country and world are already several steps ahead. San Francisco’s recycling rate is already approaching 70%. Two-thirds of the cities in New Zealand have adopted zero waste goals. Learn more about zero waste.

The long-term solution is to reduce trash by dramatically increasing recycling and making products more recyclable by making producers responsible for the end of life of their products, which creates the bottom line incentive for producers to design for recycling.

Environmental organization makes way through Lubbock   (My Fox Lubbock)

Getting to Zero: Will Austin's green self-image be realized in its "zero waste" goals?   (Austin Chronicle)

Arlington landfill expansion approved   (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)


  • Founded by Lois Gibbs who fought toxic contamination in her Love Canal community in the 1970s, CHEJ works with local groups to win environmental justice is from the bottom up through community organizing and empowerment. Center for Health Environment and Justice
  • Blog of the Fort Bend and Brazoria County group opposing the expansion of the BFI landfill in their area. Citizens Against the Blue Ridge Landfill Expansion
  • Environmental engineer Dr. Fred Lee has been working since the 1960's on landfills and has written extensively on many topics. Dr. Fred Lee's Scientific Research on Landfills
  • This manual, written by experienced organizers, is designed to assist communities that live near polluters to pressure for improvements. Good Neighbor Campaign Handbook
  • Order this book to have a step-by-step practical guide about how to organize people for direct action to fight powerful interests. Guide to Organizing
  • Health Care Without Harm is a national group working to improve the public health and environmental impacts of the health care sector. They have worked on medical waste issues since their inception. Health Care Without Harm - medical waste webpage
  • This site has information on how landfills leak and links to photos of landfills Information about Leaking Landfills
  • A treasure trove of practical information on how to reduce waste and recycle. National Waste Prevention Coalition
  • Informative analyses of how the North American trash system developed and how producer takeback and zero waste strategies are critical for the future. Good comparative studies of successful Canadian producer takeback programs. Product Policy Institute
  • Twenty year plan backed by dozens of groups in New York City to move towards Zero Waste. Reaching for Zero - New York City Citizens Plan for Zero Waste
  • Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association (NEWMOA) Summary of Research on Mercury Emissions from Municipal Landfills Summary of Research on Mercury Emissions from Municipal Landfills
  • Good resources on landfills including why landfill gas is NOT green energy The Basics of Landfills from EJnet.org
  • Waste to Wealth Project - Institute for Local Self-Reliance Waste to Wealth Project - Institute for Local Self-Reliance