Table Of Contents
A landfill is a region where rubbish is disposed of by burying it and covering it with dirt. Its primary goal is to keep the waste isolated from the environment so that contamination won't occur. Continue reading to find out more about landfills and how they operate.
What Is A Landfill Site?
A landfill site, sometimes referred to as a tip, dump, rubbish dump, garbage dump, or dumping ground, is a location for the disposal of waste products. It is the oldest and most popular method of disposing of garbage, with its location being on the ground itself or involving filling an undesired hole in the earth.
In the past, landfills were left unmonitored, easily fostered pollution, and attracted pests that carried disease. As a result, waste would be piled up or illegally dumped into pits; in archaeology, this is referred to as a midden. Waste management professionals go through several stages to safely keep waste, and landfills are now subject to regulations.
Some landfills are used for waste management activities such as temporary storage, consolidation, transportation, or various phases of waste material processing such as sorting, treatment, or recycling. For instance, methane, one of the gas waste products that would typically contaminate the atmosphere, is now being harnessed and used to produce power.
Keen to note is that in the event of an earthquake, landfills may experience strong shaking or soil liquefaction if they are not stabilised.
What Kind Of Waste Is Found In Landfills?
You can dump rubbish from residential and commercial sources in landfills, which are often municipal solid waste processing facilities. This is to say that landfills are used to gather and bury garbage that isn't disposed of at municipal recovery facilities.
Today, commercial and construction-related enterprises account for most of the waste dumped in landfills, including soil, concrete, and brick ruins. This waste is referred to as "inert waste" since it won't likely react with other garbage and is thus safe for landfills. A lot of the inert trash is used to construct roads or cover the area once a given landfill is full.
Primary Causes Of Landfills
Landfills are a necessary evil, even if they are unsustainable and could potentially harm the ecosystem. The need to have landfills open and operating grows along with the amount of garbage that the growing human population produces. Below are the primary causes of landfills:
Urbanisation and population increase
The globe needs more landfills for various reasons, chief among them the increasing urbanisation and population increase. More trash is produced and disposed of because there are more people, which increases demand. Urbanisation produces a variety of poisons and plastics that should properly be disposed of in landfills.
Agricultural waste comprises animal dung from farms and old agrarian produce. Due to their extreme toxicity and potential contamination of land and water, all agricultural waste is discarded in landfills.
Construction, manufacturing, and industrial waste
Even though most of the collected materials are eligible for recycling, garbage produced by industrial facilities or refineries—such as wood, metal debris, or nuclear waste from energy plants—often makes its way to landfills. Most solid waste is produced by power plants, oil refineries, building projects, pharmaceutical companies, and agricultural product manufacturers.
Since poor education may result in actions that increase waste generation, it might contribute to the problem with landfills. People could not care how much or what sort of garbage they generate as they are mostly unaware of its harm to the environment. As a result, there is a consequent rise in the need for landfills since we must find a way to dispose of the garbage.
A lack of interest in recycling
Another factor contributing to landfills is man's general unwillingness or lack of focus on recycling and reuse. Most people have a lot of things that are still functional and eligible for reusing or recycling; however, we choose to throw them away in pursuit of the newest models. This practice results in a needless loss of resources and aggravates the landfill issue.
The Operation Of Sanitary Landfills
A layering system is used in the construction of modern sanitary landfills to safely separate waste and monitor all by-products, leaks, and other environmental hazards. A crucial step in landfill operation involves keeping them sealed off from the air and water to avoid contamination.
Landfills utilise the layering system to make the breakdown process easier. Here, hazardous waste is disposed of in a hole, and gases emitted during the breakdown of the materials are monitored and harnessed to prevent leakage. Eastern Creek in Sydney is home to Australia's biggest tip, the largest integrated recycling/landfill facility in the Southern Hemisphere, as well as Australia.
Layers Of A Landfill
Now let's examine how each layer in a landfill functions to prevent environmental pollution while the garbage safely decomposes:
Initial Layer: The Liner System
A modern landfill is a waste collection system coated with compacted clay so thick that liquids cannot get through it—engineers working on landfills layer a high-density polythene liner on top of the clay to provide extra protection.
Layer Two: The Drainage System
As some garbage breaks down, liquid is generated. Additionally, extra pollutants may sink to the bottom of a landfill when rain and snow flow through it. These liquids, known as leachate, are gathered and sent to treatment facilities, on-site or at wastewater treatment plants, using perforated pipes put on top of the liner.
Layer Three: A System for Collecting Gas
As waste breaks down, methane is produced, and methane released into the atmosphere causes global warming. Since natural gas is typically composed of methane, the by-product from modern landfills is converted into electricity or other types of energy via gas extraction wells. These wells pump methane to treatment zones and plants.
Layer Four: The Garbage Itself
Waste is brought to the landfill's main layer, where it is compacted to save space. Every day, a layer of earth is placed on top of the fresh garbage to help keep smells in check and keep pests away.
The Last Covering
When a landfill reaches its capacity, the last covering or cap is put on it. The final cover includes the following elements:
• Approximately 18 inches (46cm) of manufactured clay at the bottom
• A plastic liner in the centre
• Around 2 feet (61cm) of protective soil
• At least 6 inches (16cm) of topsoil to sustain native shallow-rooted flora
The covering prevents water from entering the dump and shuts off the garbage from the environment. Additionally, it keeps pests (such as flying insects, rodents, mice, and birds) out of the trash. It allows for the possibility of converting the landfill area into open spaces and parks.
System For Monitoring The Environment
The environmental monitoring system has to monitor sites to keep an eye on all environmental aspects that the landfill might harm due to dumpsites. This would apply to air, surface water, and groundwater. Monitoring of the groundwater above and downstream of the dump is done.
Heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and characteristics that might signal leakage are regularly measured in the wells. If there have been any discharges from the landfill, they are compared to earlier data and statistically examined to ascertain.
On May 3, 2022, the Environmental Monitoring of Licensed Landfills in Environment and Pollution tender was released by Australia. The project falls under the category of landfill management services.
Note: The site will be monitored for at least 30 years to ensure the surrounding ecosystem is free of contamination.
Why Does Garbage Emit Gas And Liquids?
Bacteria produced by organic waste in landfills are broken down by bacteria produced by organic waste. Leachate and landfill gas are created when weak acidic compounds produced by rotting trash interact with waste liquids.
What is leachate?
The liquid created when waste is broken down in landfills is called leachate. Leachate can become poisonous due to waste acids reacting with other trash. Therefore, it is collected and disposed of at a wastewater treatment facility to avoid polluting local waterways.
What is landfill gas?
Methane and carbon dioxide, along with trace quantities of other gases, are commonly found in landfill gas, which has a sweet, foul odour. As mentioned, some landfill sites harness methane to create energy or burn off the gas since it is explosive and combustible.
Around 400–500 cubic metres of landfill gas are produced for every tonne of biodegradable trash. As a result, long after the landfills have stopped receiving waste, the gas emissions from such locations are monitored.
How is smell controlled in landfills?
Gases released by decaying trash are the cause of the odour's landfills create. Landfill odour control companies control landfill odour by taking several proactive steps, such as:
• Preserving a sufficient layer of dirt on the operating landfill cell
• Daily site inspections that cover the site's limits and the landfill's surface help to swiftly find and fix any problems
• Setting up gas wells to convert landfill gas into energy
• Tracking air quality using portable gas sensors
• Closing the area in the event of severe weather, such as high winds
What Are Today's Old Landfills Used For?
Old landfills are no longer empty areas. They are being transformed to serve other practical purposes, such as animal habitats and public parks.
Creating a public park out of an old landfill is one of the most well-liked ways to repurpose it. Today, more than a thousand parks are located atop former landfills across the globe. The options are unlimited, from parks to golf courses to skate parks.
Projects using landfill energy
Additionally, capped landfills are converted into locations for energy generation. It's not new to make electricity from landfill gas, and it's used to power anything from houses to cars.
Habitats for wildlife
Environmental activists are calling for the conversion of former landfills into animal sanctuaries. They advise assessing the area's soil profile and water table to see if it can support local fauna and vegetation.
How Is Waste Handled At A Landfill?
The garbage disposed of in landfills remains there for a very long period. Typically, landfills have extremely low levels of oxygen and moisture. In these circumstances, the waste decomposes slowly. Landfills are just intended to bury garbage; they are not intended to decompose it. Whenever a landfill reaches capacity, it is often covered. Different capping techniques are used for general garbage and hazardous waste.
Regarding hazardous waste
• The garbage is covered with synthetic material. Then, two feet of compacted clay are placed on top of this.
• As the trash decomposes, a drainage layer is used to remove liquids and chemicals.
• And to finish the capping system, a layer of earth or topsoil is applied.
Regarding general trash
• A solid lining system is installed at the landfill's base.
• The landfill site is covered in alternate layers of compacted clay and synthetic stuff.
• Over the clay, a final layer of topsoil is placed.
Why Are Landfills Necessary?
Landfills fill a crucial infrastructural need by handling the leftover waste generated by homes and businesses. According to landfill operations projection, this trash will rise following consumer trends and population growth. Therefore, there is a need for residual garbage to be managed safely and effectively, even with increased recycling rates.
Local people and other interested parties can submit comments about a landfill project during the planning, approval, and call-in process. Operators are also expected to comply with various regulatory standards as part of the process. It's important to note that nearby residents have ample chances to learn about the application and the site's functionality.
Advantages Of Landfills
Landfills provide several benefits, including:
Excellent energy source
Carbon dioxide and methane are created as waste in a landfill builds up and starts to decompose. These gases may be extracted, purified, and utilised to produce energy.
Eco-friendly landfills are modern
Because of the efforts of environmentalists and conservationists who pushed for tight landfill legislation, regulations, and standards, landfills are now well monitored. The design of these landfills makes effective use of technology; a solid soil liner and leachate control system guarantee no seepage and damage.
Help maintain cleanliness in all areas
In any city without a landfill or when residents know there is no effective waste management system, they will dump trash in the open spaces. This harms both individuals and the ecosystem. Local garbage will be handled locally if landfill facilities are kept in good condition, thus maintaining the cleanliness of a given area.
Allows for separation of hazardous waste
Waste can be disposed of separately at landfills for recyclable and non-recyclable materials. Additionally, they offer a location to store additional dangerous items that need to be kept away from people.
Landfills are inexpensive
Since waste generated in an area would only need to travel a short distance to a landfill, transportation expenses for garbage will be lowered. Additionally, this will lessen the pollution produced by the transportation of garbage.
Landfills support local businesses and jobs
Any nation's efficient waste management system is a multimillion-dollar endeavour that requires labour at every level. More regional landfills equate to more jobs and improved living conditions for the local population.
The Drawbacks Of Landfills
There are numerous benefits to burying garbage in the ground; however, there are also drawbacks to landfills. These include:
Landfills help contribute to climate change
About 400–500 cubic metres of landfill gas can be produced by one tonne of biodegradable garbage. Carbon dioxide and methane are the main elements of landfill gas. However, there are traces of other gases as well. Methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas (at least 25 times) than carbon dioxide. Increasing the effects of climate change and global warming.
Methane is easily ignited
Gases like methane are quite combustible. It lights up fairly readily in confined spaces with insufficient ventilation, and if left unmonitored, the entire landfill site can catch fire in a matter of seconds.
Pollute water and soil
Despite the fact that landfill protection membranes seldom break, when they do, the results can be disastrous. Pollution of the soil and water is caused by hazardous chemicals, gases, and poisons that leak from landfills and mix with the groundwater and soil. The metals, ammonium, carbons, and other poisons introduced into the environment cause the soil to lose its texture and naturalness and harm aquatic vegetation and wildlife.
Landfills have an impact on human health
According to studies, living close to or being exposed to landfills for an extended period of time can cause cancer, respiratory problems, and birth abnormalities in children. Asthma can be brought on by brief airborne exposures to ammonia and hydrogen sulphide, which can also irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. Other health issues that have been documented include chest discomfort, trouble sleeping, and weight loss.
Landfills Are A Necessary Evil!
More than ever, human beings need to pay attention to the waste around us. From a crude pit, landfills of today are now constructed waste management systems. In addition to the financial costs, burying rubbish in a landfill might cause issues for future generations since it will take a long time for it to decompose.
Modern landfills help to keep the environment clean and safe as we continue to look for new ways to deal with waste. To play your part in proper waste disposal, contact a reliable skip bin company to remove your waste. In this manner, you can be sure that your trash is managed properly and safely, limiting the damage caused to the environment.