Where Does All the Trash Go?
Residents and businesses in the City of Roanoke, Roanoke County, and Vinton generate 700 tons of waste every day. These valley localities have created the Roanoke Valley Resource Authority and joined forces with Norfolk Southern in an innovative public-private partnership to take out the trash.
Each locality collects its own trash, using its own equipment. After collection, refuse trucks deliver the trash to the Resource Authority's Tinker Creek Transfer Station at 1020 Hollins Road in the City of Roanoke, near the intersection of Orange Avenue and Hollins Road. At the Transfer Station, waste is loaded into specially designed rail cars and covered with watertight lock-down lids. Each rail car holds 65 tons of waste, making them among the largest on the railroad. At the end of the day, all waste collected and loaded into the rail cars is transported 33 miles by Norfolk Southern's Waste Line Express to the landfill.
Upon arriving at the landfill, the rail cars are uncoupled and positioned for unloading the following day. The train makes a daily trip to Smith Gap with the loaded cars from the Transfer Station and returns the same day with empty rail cars from the previous day's load.
At the Smith Gap Station, the rail cars are unloaded using a rail car dumper to rotate the car upside down. The unloading operation takes place inside the tipper building, where the waste is loaded into haul trucks for burial in a 1,200 acre, environmentally protected landfill disposal area meeting all state and federal regulations.
This regional public-private partnership is the first project in the United States using rail as the sole transportation link between a solid waste transfer station and a landfill, and was one of the three projects for which the City of Roanoke received the All-America City Award in 1996.