Trash burning
Posted February 5, 2020 | 7:30 AM

Burning Question: Where Does All Your Trash Go?

Hillsborough County converts curbside garbage to electricity

Ever wondered what happens to your garbage after it leaves the curb? In Hillsborough County, collected trash is delivered to the County's Resource Recovery Facility on Falkenburg Road. This waste-to-energy facility burns residential and commercial trash, and the heat is used to generate electricity - enough renewable energy to power 35,000 homes.

How does waste-to-energy work?

  1. Waste is burned to produce heat (thermal energy).
  2. The heat is used to turn water into high-pressure steam in a boiler.
  3. The rising steam turns the blades of a turbine, converting the thermal energy into mechanical energy.
  4. The turbine powers a generator, producing electricity.

Some of the energy generated is used to power nearby County facilities. The rest of the power is sold to an energy cooperative for commercial use. The facility recycles water from the adjacent wastewater treatment plant during the power generation process. Advanced air pollution equipment and a continuous emissions monitoring system ensure the facility operates in compliance with the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Air Act.

The Hillsborough County Resource Recovery Facility has been in operation since 1987 and:

  • Burns up to 1,800 tons of trash per day
  • Reduces the amount of material that is landfilled by 80 percent
  • Saves $500,000 per year in utility costs by providing electricity to County-owned buildings
  • Produces $450,000 in revenue per year by recovering and recycling metals
  • Generates $16 million per year by selling electricity to the grid

Take a Virtual Tour


Visit it in Person
Adult groups that are interested in an escorted tour of the facility to see how the resource recovery process works can schedule one in advance.

Photo Information: Large cranes transport trash from the delivery dock to the incinerator at Hillsborough County's Resource Recovery Facility on Falkenburg Road.