Sep 23, 2020

Why Is Landfill So Bad?

Words by First Mile

Why Is Landfill So Bad?

To strive towards a cleaner, greener and more sustainable future, we need to face the issues that are challenging us today. As a nation of consumers, we are forever buying new products, over-filling our fridges and opting for quick, cheap buys that have short life spans. Though many companies are taking huge strides to combat this by offering recyclable alternatives, landfills are still one of our biggest problems and one that has disastrous consequences for our planet. And as landfills are paid for by the council, it’s often the taxpayer who foots the bill.

What Is Landfill?

A landfill is, quite simply, a plot of land that's used to dump waste. Think about a sea of broken, foul smelling rubbish that has been buried and left to rot for years on an unused piece of land — it’s not a pretty sight.

What’s worse is, that junk is not going anywhere.

For most households and businesses in the UK, there is a disconnection between waste and the impacts it has on the Earth. When we throw out our trash, a waste disposal truck will come along and take it away and, just like that, our bins are nice and empty again. Out of sight, out of mind.

But, unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.

What Happens To Waste At A Landfill?

A landfill is a man-made structure that is either built into the earth or on top of it. It’s designed to be isolated from rain, air and groundwater. The purpose of this is to stop waste coming into contact with the surrounding environment, however, a lack of oxygen causes a bacterial reaction and rubbish begins to breakdown and decay, albeit incredibly slowly. This, in turn, produces gases and liquids including methane and leachate.

Methane is highly flammable and can cause some serious damage if allowed to build up underground. It’s also one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases and, thus, a culprit of climate warming. Many landfills have pipes that collect the methane, which is then sent to be burnt off for energy. However, the environmental damage far outweighs any energy that is produced.

As mentioned, landfills produce gases such as methane and CO2. Because the waste is trapped without oxygen, even natural produce such as fruit and vegetables can take a long time to break down.

Landfills also produce landfill leachate. A liquid that seeps through rubbish, often collecting toxic substances along the way. If not carefully managed, leachate can threaten both surface and ground water, contaminating water supplies and the local environment.

As Earth's population rises, so does our waste consumption, meaning the devastating consequences that landfill has on the environment will increase if we continue to use them the way that we do.

The UK produced 222.9 million tonnes of waste in 2016 and, up until 2018, around two-thirds of plastic waste was sent to China. This gives you an indication of the vast scale of our waste and how much the UK requires a sophisticated waste and recycling management system that is fit for purpose and sustainable.

Landfill Sites in the UK

There are around 500 landfill sites in the UK, with the majority of them located in England. Many people probably don’t know where their nearest site is located, which makes it harder to see landfill as a problem. Around 35 million tonnes of rubbish lay there.

The largest landfill in the UK was the renowned Pakington site situated just outside of Birmingham. Instead of using an underground method, this one quite literally towered rubbish and covered 380 acres of land. Now closed, it's covered in clay and soil and the long, slow process of breakdown has begun.

Landfill Laws

Modern landfills have tight restrictions and the UK sits under the Landfill Directive, an EU law. This orders local councils to minimise organic and garden waste going to landfill (a huge CO2 contributor) and encourages them to use alternative waste-disposal methods.

Landfill and Business

For business and industries, it is against the law to send hazardous and non-hazardous waste to the same landfill and they are responsible for finding alternative means of disposal. It is also obligatory to fill out a waste transfer note when handing over rubbish to a registered waste management organisation such as your recycling company or scrap metal merchant.

The Solution: Zero to Landfill

So, now it’s clear why landfill is so bad, it’s time to consider the alternatives. More and more businesses are cutting down on unnecessary waste and recycling where they can.

Zero to landfill is, as the name suggests, a way of managing waste without it ever ending up in a landfill. This is achieved through the use of recycling, reusing, green technology and waste-to-energy. At First Mile, we provide a 100% zero-to-landfill solution. In other words, we are passionate about avoiding damage to the environment at all costs.

Recycling

Most people already do this without thinking. Recycling has become part of our lives and we can only encourage businesses to do it more effectively. We offer a whole choice of recycling solutions, from food waste to coffee cups, electronics to coffee grounds. You name it; we’ll handle it. It’s as simple as that.

Reusing

Before throwing something out, consider how you might reuse it and give it a new lease of life. Can you use packaging such as cardboard boxes and shredded paper again? Can you get your computers repaired and upgraded without chucking them away? We tend to throw things away prematurely, so make sure to stop and think before you do.

Green Technology

Green technology is a way of tracking your CO2 emissions and your environmental impact so that you can reduce waste at the source. By understanding your energy usage, you’ll be able to manage and save without ever being wasteful. Check out our solutions here.

Waste-to-Energy

Unfortunately, not everything can be recycled. As you know, landfills do have a way of producing energy from methane, but this does not align with our zero-to-landfill ethos.

Instead, we take your waste to an energy-to-waste facility. Here, your rubbish is safely incinerated and generates electricity and heat that are used to power homes. For remnants that can’t be burned, they are packed down into building materials. Voila!

By First Mile

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