Where do used sandbags go and what to do with them after flooding ends

Apr 20, 2023, 5:00 AM

piles of sandbags pictured, utah flooding has utahns prepping...

Sandbags are set on the road during ongoing flood mitigation efforts at Emigration Creek in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 13, 2023. (Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

(Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE COUNTY— What happens to the tens of thousands of sandbags used to prevent flooding this spring?

The answer depends on if the bags came into contact with flood waters or not.

Flood waters are often infected with hazardous germs, bacteria, and waste. Therefore, the sandbags that come into contact with flood water are likely to become contaminated. 

The Utah Department of Public Safety has a handout containing information on how to dispose of used and unused sandbags. 

How to dispose of contaminated sandbags

By blocking flood water flow, the bags and the sand can become contaminated with harmful pathogens that can be dangerous to you and your neighbors. In disposing of contaminated sandbags:


  • Check with local waste management agencies for possible disposal sites
  • Take extra caution transporting the bags
  • Communicate with waste management to communicate and ensure proper handling


  • Reuse contaminated sandbags in ways that involve human contact. Such as sand boxes, playgrounds, or gardens
  • Dump sandbags in creeks, rivers, canals, ditches, roadway gutters, or storm drain inlets
  • Leave sandbags sitting in the sun for extended periods of time, unless there is an active flood threat
  • Place sandbags where they would block floodways or floodplains

How to dispose of uncontaminated sandbags

If sandbags have been kept dry or have only been in contact with precipitation, they are normally not contaminated and can be disposed of differently. Here are options for disposing of uncontaminated sandbags from the Utah Department of Public Safety and How To Dispose of Sandbags:


  • Reuse sandbags in areas like flower beds, snow and ice control, or as base for paving blocks
  • Store sandbags in an area protected from natural elements such as wind or rain
  • Donate them to other flood prevention organizations


  • Store sandbags in perpetually wet areas
  • Store sandbags for more than 8 months to a year
  • Use the sand to fill sandboxes 
  • Store sandbags that have holes or tears in the fabric

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Where do used sandbags go and what to do with them after flooding ends