There are landfills everywhere in the UK, US, India, and the rest of the planet. Some locations engage in “land raising” (directly putting trash on the ground), while others engage in “landfilling” (filling a hole in the ground with the rubbish). These trash heaps contain a mix of commercial and residential waste.
Humans produce waste; this is an unavoidable reality of existence. Waste is a difficult problem that society must address. Over a tonne of rubbish is produced annually by the typical UK household. When you add it all up, you get 31 million tonnes every year, or the weight of 3.5 million double-decker buses, a line of which would wrap around the world.
Rubbish from both residential and commercial sources is dumped in landfills. Most of the household garbage that is disposed of in landfills is organic waste, such as food, paper, cardboard, or wood. Other garbage from the home includes plastic or tin packaging. Municipal Solid Waste is the term for a lot of our personal trash (MSW). According to the World Bank, MSW is defined as “waste that includes non-hazardous waste generated in households, commercial and business establishments, institutions, non-hazardous industrial process wastes, agricultural wastes, and sewage sludge.” Various jurisdictions have different specific definitions.
To ensure that the rules are being followed, landfills are strategically placed, planned, operated, and monitored. Additionally, they are made to safeguard the environment against toxins that could be found in the waste stream. Landfills are located using on-site environmental monitoring systems, and they cannot be constructed in “environmentally-sensitive” areas. These monitoring devices look for any evidence of landfill gas emissions as well as groundwater contamination.
A landfill is limited and rehabbed as it reaches capacity so that it can be converted into green areas like parks and community grounds. After capping, these will be kept in good condition for up to 30 years.
Landfills typically take many years to fill to capacity, depending on the type and amount of waste. A final layer of cover material, clay, and vegetation is then used to cap a landfill. This cap layer creates a barrier that keeps precipitation and odours apart. When the area is recovered, it will be planted according to its intended purpose, which could be light cultivation or enjoyment.
Toxins, leachate, and greenhouse gas emissions from landfills are the three main issues. Bacteria that are produced by organic waste break down the trash. Leachate and landfill gas are created when weak acidic compounds produced by rotting trash interact with waste liquids.
Additionally, there are certain unintended consequences including nauseating smells, terrible views, and rat and seagull infestations that produce their own waste issues.
Toxic compounds are present in a large number of waste products. One such instance is electronic garbage. Mercury, arsenic, cadmium, PVC, solvents, acids, and lead are just a few of the dangerous materials that can be found in waste products like televisions, computers, and other electronic gadgets. These chemicals gradually seep into our soil and groundwater, where they pose long-term environmental risks.
When waste decomposes in a landfill and water filters through it, a liquid called leachate is created. Due to its extreme toxicity, this liquid has the potential to damage the soil, groundwater, and waterways. Environmentally hazardous compounds are present in large concentrations in landfills. As they degrade, plastics like PVC and other materials release hazardous compounds.
The trash category with the fastest growth in the industrialised world is e-waste. Despite being the most harmful daily waste stream of all, the majority of it is disposed of in landfills. Acids, solvents, and heavy metals abound in electronic trash. Each landfill cell must be filled over the course of an entire year, during which time the contents are regularly exposed to rainfall. Leachate, a foul-smelling liquid containing ammonia and various poisonous salts, is created when rainwater that has filtered through the waste dissolves and flushes 5-7 percent of the pollutants with it.
The biggest environmental risk that landfills pose is probably the creation of greenhouse gases. In landfills, organic waste such as food scraps and green garbage is typically compacted and covered. Due to the removal of oxygen, an anaerobic process results in the breakdown of the substance. Methane, a greenhouse gas that is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, is eventually released as a result of this. Methane makes up 35-55% and carbon dioxide makes up 30-44% of landfill gas. Another flammable gas that can be hazardous if allowed to accumulate is methane. There are significant consequences for climate change and global warming. Many of these issues can be solved by composting your food leftovers and yard trash.
We can summarize the harms posed by landfills in following points:
- For taxpayers, landfills are additional expense burden.
- The decomposing waste in the ground produces significant amounts of CO2 and methane gas. These are greenhouse gases, which have a significant impact on the global warming process.
- Landfills receive toxic materials, which eventually seep into the ground and groundwater. This poses a serious threat to the ecosystem. Arsenic, mercury, PVC, acids, lead, and household cleaning products are a few of the substances. Our waterways are easily contaminated by leachate, the hazardous liquid created when water filters through landfill garbage.
- Gases produced by landfills make them a fire hazard. The major gas produced, methane, is also quite flammable. Firefighters frequently employ fire-retardant foam rather than water to put out fires because they are unsure of the chemicals they are working with, which increases the waste site’s chemical footprint.
- Even garbage that would typically disintegrate fast, such fruit and vegetable waste, will take a very long time to do so in a landfill because landfills trap waste underground with no air. Some landfill items won’t decompose for nearly a million years! The landfill will be emitting unwelcome and hazardous gases during this time, necessitating permanent management of the area to prevent excessive pollution or emergency situations.
What is the answer to landfills problem?
Most people can agree that we should aim to avoid or at the very least reduce the amount of trash we send to landfills. When you hear the word “landfill,” images of large, stench-filled open spots filled with trash and swarming with scavenger birds and insects come to mind. Not to mention the pollution and issues with wildlife and the environment that landfills bring, a topic that is receiving greater attention. The question arises then is how to solve the issue of landfills. Following are some measures for same:
The most obvious substitute for dumping rubbish in a landfill is recycling. Numerous materials can be recycled, at least in part, and recycling may even have financial advantages. To extract usage from the discarded product, materials like wood goods, metals like steel and aluminium, plastics, and especially glasses, can all be recycled. Some points to help you recycle better at work:
- Make your recycling station “fool-proof” by clearly indicating what can be placed in each bin with labelling and signage. Anyone who uses the bin may then quickly determine where to place their trash.
- Make sure there are enough of them and that it is equally simple for your team to properly recycle waste as it is to simply throw it in the trash.
- Remove personal trash cans; it’s very tempting to place all waste in one container with a trash can under each desk. In order to make recycling as simple as single-stream garbage disposal, it could be necessary to make it more difficult not to recycle.
- Organize a waste awareness event or campaign. Enabling staff to thoroughly comprehend the process—rather than merely telling them what to recycle, but also why—is essential to ensuring that they are aware of what may be recycled. Today, some waste management businesses will even host an event at your company to give employees a glimpse into how they manage their waste.
Waste to Energy Incineration
In the waste to energy (WTE) incineration process, garbage is burned to produce energy. This enables things that would otherwise be thrown away to have a second useful life by being utilised to produce additional energy that can then be utilised by society. The drawback of this procedure is that more greenhouse gases, specifically CO2, are produced. When energy is produced from coal, greenhouse gas emissions are comparable to this CO2 output.
Without the need of oxygen or the open air, bacteria and other microbes can break down organic waste in a process known as anaerobic digestion. It is regarded as a renewable energy method that uses trash to produce products like methane. This methane can be converted further into natural gas or utilised to power a variety of engines. Anaerobic digestion is a relatively recent technique that is only now beginning to get attention as a means of managing trash and generating electricity.
Composting/Organic Waste Recycling
By using the composting method, biological waste, such as spoiled food, can naturally decompose. Due to the growing amount of landfills, this procedure, which is exceptionally environmentally beneficial, is beginning to be carried out on an industrial scale. Organic waste may be quickly recycled through composting and converted into fertiliser for use in agriculture.
Other cutting-edge waste management systems are also being created. High temperatures are used in pyrolysis to reduce organic waste into more manageable pieces that can then be disposed of. Organic material is also catalysed into synthetic gases and solid trash known as slag by a process called plasma arc gasification. After that, the slag can be used as a solid for building materials and other things. These procedures are currently being developed and aren’t being used frequently.