January 08, 2023 / by Jaime
  Filed Under: Landfill News From Easy Dumpster

Landfills are eyesores, produce unpleasant smells, harm the environment, and attract pests – all nasties in one giant place. But what you may not know is that landfills are also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, which will cause irreversible climate change. Landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, and it’s only getting worse.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and has a significant impact on the environment. Over a 100-year period, methane has been 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. So, how do landfills contribute to methane emissions? And what other evils are these garbage dumping sites leaving for us to endure? Let’s dig deeper and understand this in more detail to form a verdict about landfills and their sustainability. 

  1. Landfills Produce Methane 

When organic waste decomposes in landfills, it produces methane gas. This process is accelerated by the presence of oxygen, moisture, and warmth—conditions that are plentiful in landfills. Once methane is produced, it can either dissipate into the atmosphere or be collected and used as an energy source. 

About 50% of landfill methane is collected and used in the United States. However, this still results in a big percentage of methane being emitted into the atmosphere each year. That’s equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 29 million automobiles! We did some research at EPA.GOV and found this information on Methane.

Methane Emissions Are a Big Problem  

As we mentioned before, methane is responsible for about 25% of human-caused climate change. And while methane doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide does, it traps more heat over a shorter period. This means that even small increases in methane emissions can trigger climate change. 

A large portion of methane emissions is due to human activity—namely, the production and disposal of organic waste in landfills. As the population continues to produce more waste, we must find ways to reduce our reliance on landfills. Otherwise, we’ll continue to see increases in methane emissions and further worsening of climate change. 

  1. Leachate Seeping Into Groundwater And Polluting It 

Underneath the city, hidden from view, a dark liquid seeps through the cracks in the concrete, working its way towards the groundwater. This is landfill leachate, one of the most common forms of water pollution. Leachate is created when rainwater mixes with the waste in landfills, picking up harmful chemicals and bacteria. If this contaminated water isn’t properly treated, it can seep into aquifers and pollute the groundwater we rely on for drinking, irrigation, and industrial use.

In addition to contaminating our water supply, landfill leachate can cause widespread environmental damage. The toxic chemicals in leachate can kill plants and animals and make their way into the food chain, posing a serious threat to human health. Landfill leachate is an invisible pollutant with very real consequences. We must take steps to prevent it from polluting our precious groundwater resources. 

Landfills are built with a liner to prevent the leachate from seeping into the groundwater and polluting it. However, the liner is not foolproof; over time, it will develop cracks and allow the leachate to seep through. Once the leachate has contaminated the groundwater, it will be challenging and expensive to clean it up.

  1. Dumps Contaminate Soil And Air 

Besides contaminating groundwater, leachate can also pollute the soil and air. Furthermore, organic waste can release harmful chemicals such as volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide into the air, leading to smog formation and respiratory problems in humans. Upon decomposition, solid waste gives off methane, a gas that is twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide in its ability to trap heat in the atmosphere. 

Methane is not the only gas that landfills emit; they also release hydrogen sulfide, which can cause respiratory problems, and carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change. In addition to these atmospheric pollutants, landfills leach harmful chemicals into the ground, contaminating soil and water supplies. 

  1. Landfill Attract Vermin 

Landfills are also a breeding ground for rats and other vermin, which can spread disease. As our population continues to grow and the garbage sites have almost reached their max capacity, finding ways to reduce the impact of landfills on the environment is vital. These animals can then spread diseases to humans through contact or contaminating our food supply.  

  1. They are Limiting the Inhabitable Space 

According to the UN, the world’s population is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050. With more people comes more waste, and landfills are quickly becoming overloaded. Not only are landfills a strain on the environment, but they are also limited in supply. As landfills fill up, we will be forced to find alternative waste disposal methods. 

Incineration, recycling, and composting are all possible solutions, but each has its challenges. Finding a sustainable solution to the world’s waste problem is essential if we want to preserve our limited inhabitable space. Moreover, many countries have placed restrictions on where landfills can be built due to environmental concerns. As a result, finding suitable locations for new landfills is becoming increasingly complex – and costly.

Rounding Up

Landfills are one of the leading sources of human-caused methane emissions, leachate, foul smells, and vermin across the globe. Over time, Methane levels rising from these landfills will damage our planet’s protective shield and make our environment more toxic. If we want to reduce our reliance on landfills and slow down climate change, we need to find ways to produce less waste or dispose of it more responsibly. Here are the top safety measures all stakeholders must ensure to make landfills safer for the environment:

  • Coordinate with landfill operators and develop a safety plan.
  • Inspect landfill safety measures regularly.
  • Educate the public on the dangers of landfill gas.
  • Invest in research to improve landfill safety technology.
  • Mandate safety measures for all landfills.

We recently published a great blog describing many alternatives to landfills. Please click the link and tell us if you agree.

WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES TO LANDFILLS

Landfills are a necessary evil we cannot get rid of anytime soon. But to control the negative impact they have on earth, proper safety measures are inevitable. If the major stakeholders and governments take an interest in sustainable solid waste management, we can mitigate its effect before it’s too late!

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