Over 3,000 active landfills & 10,000 closed landfills exist in the United States. Solid waste must be disposed of properly, which necessitates the use of landfills. They help to keep communities clean by reducing the amount of waste which makes its way into the environment, preventing disease transmission, and reducing the amount of waste which makes its way into the environment.
Landfills, on the other hand, have a significant environmental & social impact. When landfills are a societal requirement, there are practices that can reduce landfill usage and reduce their environmental impact.
Landfills Have A Negative Impact On The Environment
The release of methane gas from landfills is the most pressing environmental concern. Methane gases are released as organic matter decomposes in landfills. Methane absorbs the sun’s heat 84 times better than co2, making it one of the most powerful greenhouse gases & a major contributor to climatic changes.
Landfills produce carbon dioxide & water vapour, as well as trace amounts of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, & non-methane organic compounds, in addition to methane. If left unchecked, these gases can contribute to climate change & cause smog.
Typically, the construction of landfills entails the destruction of natural wildlife habitats. The average landfill is 600 acres in size. Over 3,000 energetic landfills in the U.s have resulted in the loss of up to 1,800,000 acres of habitat.
While landfills were required by federal regulation to have a plastic or clay lining, these liners frequently leak. This can lead to leachate, a liquid created by landfills, contaminating nearby water sources and harming ecosystems even more.
Ammonia levels in leachate can be quite high. When ammonia enters ecosystems, it is nitrified, resulting in nitrate. This nitrate can then cause eutrophication, & a lack of oxygen in nearby water sources, due to increased plant growth. Due to a lack of oxygen, eutrophication creates “dead zones” where animals cannot survive. Due to the presence of dangerous chemicals in landfills, leachate contains toxins such as mercury in addition to ammonia.
Landfills Have A Social Impact
The health of those who live & work near landfills is jeopardized by landfill emissions. Children born to families who lived within a mile of a toxic waste landfill site had a 12 percent higher risk of congenital malformations, according to a study conducted in New York.
Large landfills reduce the value of land adjacent to them by 12.9 percent on average. Smaller landfills have a smaller impact on land values, around 2.5 percent, but they still have an effect.
Landfills pose risks such as odour, smoke, noise, bugs, & contamination of water supplies.
Landfills & hazardous waste sites are more likely to be found in minority and low-income areas. These communities have lesser resources to fight the construction of these facilities. As a result, they are a more straightforward target for landfill placement than higher-income areas.
How To Stay Away From Landfills
Recycle! Recycling increases the quantity of trash which is diverted from landfills each year. Recycling will keep plastic & other material out of the environment and put them to good use!
Single-use plastics should be avoided. Check out the CU Zero Waste team’s article on single-use plastics & how to avoid them here.
Compost! Compostable items require oxygen to fully decompose, which is not available in landfills. Huge amounts of waste can be avoided by putting compostable items in the compost rather than the trash.
Landfills assist in keeping our societies clean, but they also pose a serious threat to the environment’s health. Working toward a zero-waste lifestyle will decrease our reliance on landfill, as well as their environmental and human health & well-being impacts.