What are the Negative Effects of Landfill?

What is a landfill site? Why are they used? Why are they bad for the environment? In this guide we discuss landfill sites and the negative effects they can have.

What is a Landfill Site?

A landfill site is a large area of land specifically designed to be filled with rubbish. Some sites fill a hole in the ground with waste whereas others pile the waste directly onto the ground.

Why are Landfill Sites Used?

Landfill sites are used to dispose of waste that cannot be recycled or reused. This can include domestic rubbish (like plastic, tin packaging and glass) as well as rubbish generated from construction, industrial and commercial businesses. Certain waste – such as hazardous waste, liquid waste and medical waste – cannot be sent to landfill.

Why are Landfill Sites Bad?

Landfill sites are renowned for causing a wide range of environmental and health issues so they should only be used if the waste materials are unable to be reused, recycled or recovered.

Here we’ve explained some of the negative effects of landfill sites:

Releases Methane Gas

Methane – alongside numerous other toxic gases – is emitted from landfill sites. As the biodegradable organic waste decomposes, it naturally releases methane which is a potent greenhouse gas that absorbs heat and contributes to climate change.

Impacts Biodiversity

Landfill sites impact biodiversity in several ways. Here are a few examples –

  • The creation of landfill sites requires wild areas to be cleared, leading to habitat loss and degradation.
  • As landfill sites are filled, some local species can be replaced by other animals that feed on refuse, like rats and crows.
  • Leachate is the liquid produced in landfill sites. This can become toxic and thus contaminate nearby streams, ponds and lakes, damaging the habitat of many different organisms.
  • Soil fertility is impacted too. The combination of toxic substances and decaying organic material can be of detriment to the soil quality, distorting soil fertility and activity and affecting plant life.

Eyesore

Landfill sites aren’t very easy on the eye and tend to be incredibly unpopular with local residents. Not only do they impact the natural landscape, but the decaying organic waste can also cause an unpleasant smell in the surrounding air.

Costly

The cost of managing landfill sites can be extremely high. This is because measures need to be implemented in order to manage the gases that are emitted as well as manage groundwater contamination and thus comply with environmental policies.

Also, because the majority of waste materials disposed of at landfill sites take millions of years to decompose, effective long-term strategies and facilities are needed. This usually requires considerable investment.

Can Easily Cause Fires

The large amount of waste mixed with the gases landfill sites produce can easily cause fires to start. In addition to causing air pollution, if the fires aren’t put out immediately, they can get out of control and destroy neighbouring habitats.

Alternative Solutions to Landfill Sites

The waste management hierarchy (as explained below) identifies the other, more favourable solutions for waste before sending it to landfill. It outlines the methods from most preferred to least preferred, encouraging creators of waste to explore alternative options and get the most out of it.

Prevention

Reduce the amount of waste produced so that less of it ends up in landfill.

Prepare for Reuse

Look for opportunities to reuse equipment and materials. Materials can either have the same use or they can be repurposed to have a slightly different use.

Recycle

Waste products – like glass, metal, wood and cardboard – can be recycled and transformed into new items. Many materials can often be recycled various times without losing quality.

Recovery

Some waste materials can be used to create energy. Surplus food, for example, can undergo anaerobic digestion to create digestate and biogas.

Disposal

Methods of disposal include landfill and incineration. No new product nor energy is created via this option.

How Does Recycling Help Landfill Sites?

One of the main benefits of recycling is that it means less waste is sent to landfill. As discussed above, landfill sites cause a whole host of environmental and health issues, so it’s absolutely crucial that creators of waste ensure it is managed in the most efficient and safe way. By recycling products that would have otherwise been dumped at landfill, you’re helping to protect the environment as well as ecosystems and wildlife.

Recycling also helps to conserve natural resources, reduce demand for raw materials and save energy.

Waste Management & Recycling with SL Recycling

Here at SL Recycling, we are committed to diverting waste away from landfill. From metal, wood and cardboard recycling to skip hire and hazardous waste management, we provide a comprehensive range of industry-leading waste management and recycling services in South Wales.

If you’d like to find out more about the impact of landfill or would like a quote for one of our services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch today. We can provide you with a bespoke recommendation based on your individual needs and requirements.

Contact SL Recycling >

See more: Benefits of Recycling Cardboard

See more: What Plastics Can and Cannot be Recycled?