Landfill sites have been spread across the UK and the world for years. Seen as a quick and easy fix, they are used as a dumping ground for anything and everything, leaving a path of destruction in terms of their environmental impact. Although decreasing in quantity, Landfill sites are still used en masse and regularly by companies and the general public.
The construction industry is responsible for a lot of waste. In fact, the construction and maintenance industry uses up the largest volume of material resources, and subsequently, created the largest amount of waste by tonnage. Over 90% of this waste is recovered. Still, five million tonnes of waste from the construction industry ends up in landfill.
In this article, we are going to look at what a landfill is, the impact that a landfill has on the environment and what can be done to eliminate the need for landfills in the future on such a large scale. We will also explore the alternatives to landfills and how using alternative waste disposal methods can improve the environment in the long term.
What are landfills?
Landfills are exclusively used for dumping waste and general rubbish by companies and the public. A landfill can come in 2 forms; the landfill is on the ground and is piled high, or rubbish is placed within a large hole within the ground and is then covered over.
Landfills are now used differently from how they were a couple of decades ago. In the past, landfills were used as a no-holds-barred dumping ground that was a free-for-all of any and every piece of rubbish that could be thrown into it. Although landfills have not progressed to being environmentally friendly, they are moving towards being designed as a last resort approach to disposing of rubbish that cannot be recycled or reused in some form.
Landfills are common and arguably outdated methods of waste disposal now. Although there are methods in place to attempt to reduce the amount of damage that landfills cause to the environment, like energy and emission regulations, they still push unacceptable pollution levels into the air and create a toxic habitable environment.
What goes into a landfill?
In the past, landfills were very much an anything-goes place where anything and everything could be dumped. In the past, there was very little regard for the environment, and the impact that waste left in a landfill could have on it. Anything could b disposed of in a landfill, and another would simply be opened once another was full.
There has been some progress in this regard, however, with a much more prominent focus on recycling and reusing materials that we can, rather than throwing them in a landfill and forgetting about them. Landfills are now becoming more of a last resort solution to the waste problems being faced around the world.
With more waste being recycled and new recycling methods coming to the forefront of environmental matters, the rate at which waste is dumped into landfills is decreasing. While this is a good thing, it doesn’t excuse the fact that landfills are a waste disposal method that needs to become a thing of the past. It is clear that new methods of disposing of rubbish that cannot be recycled need to be created and rapidly become the norm to slow the rate at which we are damaging our planet.
Why are landfills still required?
Landfills are becoming less and less of a requirement in recent years. This is due to the rapid increase in recycling within the UK and the constant separation of waste materials, which means recyclable materials being dumped in landfills are constantly decreasing with the aim of completely eliminating recycled materials from landfills in the future.
Although the use of a landfill is still required in the world today for waste that simply can’t be disposed of in another practical way currently, this does not make them any better for the environment. There still needs to be a major focus on finding alternative waste disposal methods to potentially eliminate the need for them in the future.
Although landfills are still required for quick and efficient waste disposal, they leave behind a trail of toxic emissions and unusable land. This makes them an inevitably failing system that cannot be maintained long-term. With the population constantly increasing, we need to preserve our land and create a healthy environment for all. One of the primary ways to do this is to completely eliminate the need for landfills.
What risks do landfills pose?
Landfills are not a risk-free environment. As well as taking away valuable land that could be repurposed for something productive, eco-friendly and progressive, landfills also pose many serious environmental problems like:
While landfills are now starting to be filled with less and less organic matter, there is still a scary amount of this being dumped into them daily. When organic matter breaks down, this releases Methane gas, creating a toxic, dangerous situation for the landfill and the surrounding area. This is a major factor in the rise of greenhouse gases and the gradual decline in the state of air quality and the environment as a whole.
Landfills are a method of waste disposal that need to be left where they belong, in the past. It is important to note that landfills destroy the land and leave our world baron where they lay. Landfills have a proven record of assisting in the damage and destruction of clean air and open land that could have better purposes.
What are the alternatives?
If there was no alternative to this, the use of landfills would be more understandable as an unavoidable method of waste disposal. However, this is simply now the case. In recent years, new and more eco-friendly waste disposal methods have come into existence. Still, they have not been rolled out as effectively as they should have been.
While landfills cause damage to the earth, much more eco-friendly and efficient solutions are being brought to the surface that would and should kick the use of landfills out of existence. In this section, we will go through the newest and most innovative solutions to tacking the use of landfills and judge how much better and more effective they are.
Waste to Energy Incineration
Energy to waste incineration involves taking rubbish that serves no other purpose (e.g. recycling) and incinerating it to create energy. Waste to energy incineration is a sustainable, somewhat eco-friendly method of waste disposal that, unlike landfills, has a positive output.
Incineration does have its drawbacks. It is true that incineration itself is not 100% eco-friendly and still does release pollution into the atmosphere in the form of CO2. However, unlike landfills, incineration plants have measures to catch pollutants and minimise the risks posed by this waste disposal method.
A major advantage of incineration over landfills is that it is a sustainable waste disposal method that will maintain current levels of waste in the world instead of the ever-rising amount that we are currently seeing. You may think as yourself, though, if it is a sustainable alternative to landfills that also allows us to produce energy, why is this not being rolled out en masse across the world?
The answer is simple, money. Incineration plants are significantly more expensive than the creation of landfills. While it is a better alternative to landfills, countries and councils simply do not have the resources to allow these facilities to run consistently. Although it is environmentally sustainable, it is unfortunately not yet financially sustainable.
One of the main contributors to the high methane emissions among landfills is the excessive disposal of organic matter, such as old or rotten foods. The best way to eliminate this from landfills is to enhance the push on composting and organic waste recycling. By recycling old and rotting food and using them to create compost, we reverse the methane levels around landfills and ultimately reduce the carbon footprint across the whole waste disposal industry.
Composting reverses the negative effect of organic waste on landfills, creating compost for farmers and helping the agriculture industry. Composting is a rapid recycling method with an extremely quick turnaround. It can be a major factor in reducing emissions from landfills. This also has the knock-on effect of reducing the number of chemical fertilisers used on UK farms, helping to make multiple industries more eco-friendly.
Although composting is around today, it is not yet near the scale needed to eliminate organic material from landfill completely.
How to make landfills more eco-friendly
Although there are many better alternatives than using landfills for waste disposal, there are also ways in which we can reduce the emissions given out by landfills. Although landfills are not kind to the environment around them, there are ways in which we can alter the materials that go to landfill. This, in turn, will minimise the number of emissions that are emitted by the landfill over time. Some of the ways in which we can reduce the emissions emitted by landfills include:
Leachate, in short, is polluted water that forms at the bottom of the pit when rainwater falls on a landfill. When rainwater falls through a landfill, it catches and carries any toxins from waste. As a result, we end up with a dangerous cocktail of toxins pooling at the bottom of the landfill, providing a platform for bacteria and toxins to thrive and eventually released into the air.
The purpose of combatting Leachate is to remove nitrogen from the liquid, along with other gases and other biological material, to manage the emissions released and ensure that levels of biological properties released into the air are managed properly and kept to a minimum.
When we look at landfills, some of the most common objects thrown out and sent here are electronics. Whether it be computers, phones or other mobile devices, these objects contain batteries and other components that could be seriously dangerous if they leak and become airborne.
It is true that newer landfills are being created with methods of catching and collecting toxins like mercury in place. However, the best way to eliminate the need for these precautions is to break down electronics and reuse or recycle their parts for other uses. For example, plastics and glass should be recycled in new sorting processes rather than leaving them to rot and damage the environment in a landfill.
Higher levels of material sorting
While it can be easy to look at the problem and work out ways around it, sometimes it is necessary to aim to stop the problem at the source. Millions of people across the UK contribute to landfills and put little thought into the materials they throw away. However, when recycling bins were introduced, we saw a dramatic spike in the number of people across the population actively recycling.
The logical way to further combat landfills is to create more levels of sorting waste for people at home. Different communal bins for electronics or food waste would significantly reduce the amount of organic or toxic materials going to landfills. They would, in turn, make them cleaner and simpler issues to tackle. This would not solve the issue that landfills provide. Still, it would simplify the problem and make it easier to come up with a solution.
Landfills are undoubtedly an outdated and terrible method of waste disposal. They destroy our landscape and release unholy amounts of toxins and emissions into the air, polluting our environment. It was inevitable that landfills would outstay their welcome as a viable waste disposal method, and it is now time to actively use the alternatives we have available to us.
Doing our bit
Here at 4 cladding services, we are doing our bit for the environment while working in the construction industry. We offer an option to rent all of our equipment, to help you avoid unnecessary purchases and therefore make a difference towards the amount of unused equipment ending up in landfills. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.