by Brandon Noll

Landfills are places where all our trash goes when we no longer need it. Each

person in the United States makes an average 4.5 pounds of garbage per year. And

every year the United States as a whole produces 4,036,300,000 metric tons of solid

waste each year. All of this waste does not just disappear, 80 percent ends up in

landfills. In the following report I am going to tell you about the different types of

landfills there are, the problems that have come up with the building of landfills, and

what can be done and is being done to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills.

First of all, "What are the different types of landfills?" Well, there are two

different types of landfills; the first type is the old type of landfill which are often called

open dumps where trash and other waste were thrown, often times in a ditch or just

placed in a pile. These open dumps are a poor method of waste disposal because they

cause numerous environmental problems. For example, they can ruin an area's

appearance and provide a home and breeding ground for animals that spread disease. In

addition, rain water drains through refuse and can carry harmful substances to nearby

streams and to water that is used for drinking. Unregulated dumps where waste is burned

in the open can cause smoke and foul-smelling air. Burning in open dumps has been

prohibited in the United States. The other type of landfill is most often called a sanitary

landfill. Properly operated sanitary landfills cause little damage to the environment. The

waste is firmly packed by heavy tractors and other machinery, and covered with earth each

day. The cover of earth prevents insects and other animals from getting into the refuse.

In time, sanitary landfill sites become filled up.

Many communities then cover the site with earth a final time and use the area for

recreational purposes. Concern for the environment has led to the establishment of many

strict laws and ordinances to control land disposal sites. A secure sanitary landfill is lined

with materials like plastic or clay that prevents water from carrying leachates, or

dissolved substances from the refuse into underground water supplies. Pipes collect the

water for transfer to a treatment plant that removes the leachates in the groundwater.

Pipes sunk into the landfill allow gases to escape or be collected for fuel. Another variation

of the landfill concept greatly increases the disposal capacity of certain cites and provides

recreational slopes in otherwise flat terrain. In this variation, wastes are compacted in

layers to create a landscaped hill 100 feet (30 meters) or more in height. Such hills,

sometimes nicknamed Mount Trashmore, have been built in Dupage County and

Evanston, Illinois; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Frankfurt, Germany; and Stockholm, Sweden.

Not all potential landfill sites are suitable for conversion into hills, but many are. In regions

where natural hills are scarce, a carefully built, covered, and landscaped hill of waste can

solve a waste-disposal problem and at the same time actually enhance the environment.

Another site sometimes used for waste disposal, and under consideration for more

extensive use is the ocean floor. A major deterrent to wider use of the ocean floor is the

long term threat of contamination of the deep-sea environment by materials that injure

marine life.

What are the problems in landfills today? Operators of landfills expect the refuse

in them to decay. However, environmental experts have found that many materials are

called biodegradable, because they decompose when tightly packed in a landfill. The

decomposition of cellulose in a landfill is accompanied by a very slow formation of

methane gas, which seeps out into the atmosphere. When methane gas forms by natural

decay swamps it is called swamp, and or marsh gas.

Normally, much more methane is released into the air by natural decay of trees and other

vegetation than by the decay of waste in landfills. In a rare misapplication of landfilling

too close to a building, the methane gas may seep into and accumulate inside the building

and cause an explosion.

A problem of landfilling in metropolitan areas is that as the need for waste disposal

grows, the number of suitable sites diminishes. This problem is enormously complicated

when the city has completely surrounded by residential suburbs that are hostile to all

forms of waste processing in their areas, especially the processing of waste from a

neighboring community. The well-founded hostility to the formerly widespread practice

of open dumping has, however, prejudiced many taxpayers against any form of landfilling

regardless of the demonstrated success of the sanitary landfill method.

Incineration is one process that reduces the amount of waste that is

contained in landfills. Incineration is the process of burning waste products. Many large

cities use incinerators because they do not have suitable land waste disposal sites. Older

municipal incinerators often lack adequate air pollution control devices. Burning in

many of these incineration plants releases gases and solid particles that may harm human

health, damage property, and kill plants. In the United States and Canada, incinerators

are required to limit the amount of pollution they release. Ash produced by incineration

should be monitored to ensure that it will not harm the environment.

Composting is also a method of reducing the amount of waste going to

landfills. Composting is the production of useful soil conditioning material from the

cellulosic and organic portions of community wastes remains an attractive concept, but

most large-scale attempts have failed because of marketing problems and costs.

Research in composition is continuing, and under special supply and marketing

conditions, composting will eventually find some limited applications. In the large

industrial city of Sao Paulo, Brazil, a Danish compost system has been successful because

nearby small vegetable farms, operated largely by Japanese immigrants, have found the

compost useful for improving the compacted soil of the area.

Another method of waste reduction is recycling. Some people think that most of

the material in landfills was fast food packaging, but it has been found that this

packaging only takes up one percent of the trash. Diapers take up less than one percent,

and plastic takes up nine to twelve percent of the material in landfills. The most

commonly found item in a landfill is newspapers. They make up about fourteen percent

of the trash that is found in landfills. What people need to start doing is recycling

material that can be reused in a different ways that we can save some of the room in the

landfills. Many things can be recycled like paper, plastic, aluminum, steel, tires, oil,

and glass, these things can be reused which can save many important things in our

world. When we recycle we save trees, energy, and air pollution. Recycling and waste

reduction helps lessen the amount of refuse that is buried in landfills or burned in

incinerators. Recycling is the process of reusing materials instead of throwing them

away. Commonly recycled materials include metals, glass, and paper. Waste reduction is

the process by of producing less waste. For example, people can reduce waste by using

handkerchiefs instead of disposable tissues. Municipal solid waste garbage is not as

lethal as toxic and hazardous waste, but its disposal is reaching the point of crisis in

many cities. Much of the 20,000 tons New York City produces each day is taken to

Fresh Kills Landfill. This gigantic waste mound on Long Island, covering 3,000 acres,

leaches two million gallons of toxic fluid in the ground and surface water daily.

Facing mounting costs and environmental problem, New York City has decided to

phase into mandatory recycling.

Few people want to live or work near a garbage disposal site. As it grows

increasingly difficult to find locations for new landfills and incinerators, recycling and

waste reduction will gain importance methods of waste management. For example, in

the late 1980's, Americans buried about seventy three percent of their municipal solid

waste in landfills, recycled thirteen percent of it, and burned fourteen percent of it in


Difficulties with the containment of toxins have led to a promising discovery.

When hazardous household wastes come into contact with rain water, a toxic liquid

known as leachate is created. Engineers have struggled to find ways of minimizing

leachate but are now learning that it may have an important use. By recirculating

leachate through landfills, the rate of decomposition is greatly increased. This

development could lead to a new vision of landfilling...the permanent dumping

ground of the past may eventually become an efficient eater of trash.

From open dumps, to sanitary landfills, landfills have come a long way. But,

there is still a lot of problems with them and things to be learned I hope have

informed you of many of in this report.

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