Landfills have always been a staple in our society. They were the place we put the trash we did not want. They were the ugly underground of our throw-away society. Is there still a place for them, though? Are we slowly forgoing landfills in favor of recycling and simply throwing away less trash? Is there a future for landfills?
The Description of a Landfill
The facts and figures about landfills is rather shocking. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2000, each person in the U.S. was responsible for 4.5 pounds of trash per day. The land required to handle this waste equaled one acre for 10,000 people. On that one acre the trash would need to be piled eight feet high.
Landfills were originally created in the 1950s. They replaced open dumps that had been used previously. Landfills had containment systems that helped to isolate the garbage and minimalize the environmental impact and health risk. As trash breaks down, though, there is a natural process that produces, what is called, landfill gases. The gases must be diffused or otherwise extracted as they pose a health risk.
Finding a spot to put a landfill is not simple. There are many restrictions and roadblocks. Landfills are a community issue, so in many cases, people within the community will put up a fight to prevent a landfill from coming to their area. An area chosen for landfills must pass screening to ensure it meets engineering and geological specifications and regulations.
If a landfill is not located within a reasonable distance to the community then trash removal costs will increase. As communities become more populated it is getting more difficult to find places to put landfills. Many communities are having to go to different states just to find a place for their landfill. The impact of this is going to be a great increase in the cost of trash removal.
The future of landfills is not as bleak as it may seem. They standards of operation and the great improvements in landfill construction have made landfills safer. Closed landfills are being recycled. The land may be turned back into a community space or even mined for valuable products.
The understanding of landfills and how they work has transformed them. There is no doubt that in the future even more will be understood about them to make them even more valuable and much safer. The key for the future is proper management, planning and guidance of landfills to ensure that they do not pose a risk and that when closed, they are put back to good use.
The amount of waste in the United States has went down. There are more opportunities for recycling, so waste gets reused instead of dumped in a landfill. However, eliminating all waste is a very unlikely event. There will always be some type of solid waste and there will always be a need to have somewhere to put it. Landfills are around for the long haul. They may change over time, but they are likely to always be around.