35 Sustainable Landfill Facts: You Should Read About This

Sridevi Tolety
Dec 02, 2022 By Sridevi Tolety
Originally Published on Apr 28, 2022
Edited by Aditi Gupta
Fact-checked by Shreya Yadav
Aerial view of city dump or landfill

When any resource is unnecessarily used or waste is released into the environment without proper treatment, it causes environmental hazard.

The waste can be released in any form, water, air, or land, and can even have an impact on our health. Hence, proper waste management is very crucial.

In the past, solid waste materials were usually collected from society and placed on top of the ground in an uncontrolled way, which were called opened dumps.

These became breeding grounds for various insects, mosquitoes, rats, and other rodents, which also spread diseases, and were a cause for unpleasant odors and dangerous debris, which caused a lot of problems as well.

Dumps can contaminate the water which is underground and can also pollute the rivers or lakes that are in the surrounding areas.

There is a very highly contaminated water-like substance called leachate, produced as a result of the decomposition of waste materials. This substance percolates through the waste substances and land that is beneath the waste. This leachate contaminates the groundwater, which can be very harmful. The health of the people living near such areas is also jeopardized.

Moreover, harmful gases such as methane and carbon dioxide are also generated. Even though many countries have banned such open dumping, the effects of the past are still visible in some parts of the world.

Another major environmental issue that we face is plastic pollution. The production and use of plastic have been increasing each passing year, and without proper disposal methods, this is becoming a nuisance.

Plastic waste is a problem because it is very difficult to recycle plastic, the main reason being it's property of having low melting point. This also leads to contamination from being driven off in the process of reprocessing and heating.

Plastic pollution is also a problem for the oceans and our environment. Several million tons of plastic have ended up in the oceans throughout the world.

This is due to improper disposal and littering, which is also, in turn, is causing trouble for the aquatic life. Fishing nets have been known to disturb aquatic life, both flora and fauna in the ocean.

Social And Environmental Impact

Management of waste, may it be household waste, greenhouse gases, or motor oil, is very important for the sake of environment. Wastes should be disposed in a responsible and safe way. One should also comply with the given rules and regulations for such garbage disposal and monitor the wastes even after disposal if necessary.

Landfills release methane gas into the atmosphere, especially in huge quantities, which is very harmful. Methane absorbs the sun's heat and also is a major factor in the climate change we are witnessing today.

Smog and climate change are also affected by other elements released by landfills like carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen, non-methane organic compounds, and more.

Landfills also take up huge amounts of space which remains filled with trash for the long term. The space used for landfill could have been a habitat for plants or animals. It is said that around 1,800,000 acres (7284.3 sq km) of habitat has been lost due to the landfills that have been created.

Landfill liners are made from soil, clay, or plastic covers, but the chemicals still often leak, creating more pollution.

There are many dangers associated with landfills, such as drinking water contamination and the breeding of bugs and insects. There are also a lot of issues due to odor, noise, bugs as well as smoke that is created by landfills.

Landfills, often lead to eutrophication, where there is lack of oxygen, leading to death of many organisms.

In a study, it is found that people living in a mile of landfills have children born with health issues and deformities. 

Pros And Cons Of Landfills

There can still be danger from discarded substances that are not harmful to the health of a human. Raw materials, glass bottles, glass containers, or sharp objects like a trash can be a cause of physical injuries if not tackled carefully. Hence, it's important to be aware of the small stuff that can go unnoticed.

Landfills are often causes of soil pollution which in turn disturbs the ecosystem. The leaching of chemicals into the ground also disturbs the groundwater and contaminates it.

Landfills have a lot of waste, including plastic, paper, glass, newspaper, and more, which starts to smell once it starts decomposing.

When landfills are left standing for long periods of time, they start breeding harmful bacteria.

The tourism industry can also be affected due to landfills. To make area for landfills we many a time resort to deforestation. This may also lead to ecological imbalance as it can lead to loss of species.

One of the pros of landfill is that it is an easy and cheap way to dispose of any trash.

Landfills can also create job opportunities for humans.

There are ways to produce electricity or energy using landfills.

A landfill is good way to dispose waste material that cannot be recycled.

Landfill helps to keep other areas of the city clean.

Other Waste Disposal Alternatives

When waste is not disposed of properly, it can have really harmful ecological impacts. Wastes can leak into water, seas, and lakes and contaminate the water sources which will gradually destroy aquatic flora and fauna.

Not only us, but even animals that live in the wild are affected by the increase in air pollution, climate changes, and water issues that arise from improper trash disposal.

One of the most common alternatives to landfills is recycling the waste.

Any recyclable material like paper, plastics, junk mail should be recycled.

Energy can also be created by using trash material using a process called incineration.

Using waste in the energy generation process, society can benefit by getting more energy to use, while also getting rid of waste like plastic. Recyclable materials can be used to make useful materials such as new paper, which requires less energy as compared to manufacturing it using fresh raw materials.

However, the downside of using such processes is the emission of a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide.

Anaerobic digestion is also a very viable method for disposing of waste. In this method, the bacteria break down the components in a systematic and natural process that does not require air or water. This process is environmentally friendly and can be done on a large scale as well!

Another alternative is composting, where rotten matter can start to degrade by microorganisms. This method is also environmentally friendly, and it can also generate fertilizers for our other uses. This process is completely natural, and the end product can be used by farmers while farming.

Pyrolysis is an emerging technology used for getting rid of non-usable materials like glass. This process helps to break down larger waste products into smaller and smaller bits until it becomes easy to dispose of them in some other way.

Plasma arc gasification is also a new technique that can give us the by product known as slag. This slag can be used for construction and other various purposes.

Plaque in the execution yard at Kilmainham Jail


What are landfills?

Landfills are sites for waste disposal. In this method of waste disposal, the waste material or trash is buried in the ground in layers and covered with soil. They might also be called dumping sites or dumping grounds.

What happens on a landfill site? 

Landfills are not exactly made for breaking down the garbage like glass or plastic, but just dump or store trash in a single empty space. Although the trash is not broken down on purpose, natural decomposition does take place in landfills.

How does discarding computers in a landfill affect the environment?

Discarding computers in a landfill site might leak the chemicals into the ground, which can, in turn, pollute the ground (soil pollution) as well as the groundwater. As a result, the surrounding fauna and flora can also get negatively affected.

What happens to a landfill when it is filled up and can no longer take more waste? 

When the landfill is full, it is covered with plastic, gravel, and soil and monitored regularly.

How much recycling goes to landfills?

The exact percentage of waste that ends up in landfills is not fully known but it is estimated to be around 65%.

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Written by Sridevi Tolety

Bachelor of Science specializing in Botany, Master of Science specializing in Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs

Sridevi Tolety picture

Sridevi ToletyBachelor of Science specializing in Botany, Master of Science specializing in Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs

With a Master's degree in clinical research from Manipal University and a PG Diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sridevi has cultivated her passion for writing across various domains. She has authored a wide range of articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories that have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. Sridevi is fluent in four languages and enjoys spending her spare time with loved ones. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, cooking, painting, and listening to music.

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Fact-checked by Shreya Yadav

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Psychology

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Shreya YadavBachelor of Arts specializing in Psychology

Shreya has developed a diverse set of skills through her experience in client servicing, email marketing, content and e-commerce management, digital marketing, and creative content writing. Her educational background includes a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi. Shreya's passion for ongoing learning and development is a testament to her commitment to excellence.

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