The Uk produces 434 million tonnes of waste every year. That is enough to fill the Albert Hall every two hours. Householders produce almost 30 million tonnes on average each year. 73% of this waste goes to landfill, even though 90% of it is recoverable and could be recycled, reused or composted.
Landfill is still the principal means of managing most of the waste in the UK. Landfill tax was introduced in 1996 in an attempt to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.
Landfill Gas (Methane)
One tonne of waste tipped in a landfill produces between 200 and 400 cubic metres of landfill gas. Landfill sites released 32% of the UK’s methane emissions in 2009. Methane is about 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide and allowing methane to escape into the atmosphere has significant global warming implications.
During landfill site operation, a liquid known as ‘Leachate’ is produced. This is a mixture of organic degradation products, liquid waste and rain water. Leachate is extremely variable in composition depending on the nature of the waste in the landfill and the landfill design, but typically it has high organic carbon content, high concentrations of nitrogen and is usually slightly acidic.
Landfills are designed and operate to seal the waste as much as possible from the surrounding environment. Central to this environmental protection is avoiding groundwater contamination.
The more rubbish, waste and junk that gets recycled is the less that has to go to landfill. This in turn means less methane is released, causing less global warming, and less leachate seeping into the earth and damaging our already fragile eco system.