Every year in England households and businesses create around 177 million tonnes of waste. Despite the fact that some of it is recycled, a large amount still goes to landfill, which is very damaging to the environment.
We should all try to reduce the amount of waste we produce, in order that the environmental impact is minimised as much as possible, which can be achieved by decreasing the amount which ends up in landfill sites.
Local authorities and industries take waste to landfill sites, which are areas of land where waste from homes and businesses is compacted and buried. Normally, these sites contain commercial and household waste combined.
Landfill sites should ideally be considered as a last resort, although they are necessary for disposal of rubbish which cannot otherwise be recycled or reused.
There are a number of reasons to reduce the quantity of waste going to landfill sites. One of these is the fact that landfill sites will not last forever. Once full, sites are capped with clay or plastic liners, a layer of soil and then grass. The landfill site can never be used again once sealed.
Recent studies indicate that the landfill sites in Britain landfill sites will run out by 2018 if we do not reduce the rate at which they are being used and filled. In 2007, it was reported that an area the size of Warwick was being used by landfill sites.
Landfill sites are very hazardous to the environment. Biodegradable waste creates landfill gas as it decomposes, mainly the harmful ‘greenhouse gases’ carbon dioxide and methane. Methane can be particularly problematic due to its flammability, meaning explosions and fires can sometimes be caused. Some landfill sites use the gas to generate electricity, and others just burn the gas off.
A polluting liquid run-off called leachate is created by landfill sites; this has to be collected and then disposed of at wastewater plants. If leachate gets into streams and rivers, it can cause great harm to wildlife.
Because materials are put into these holes in the ground, they cannot be used again. If reusable waste is buried, the raw materials to manufacture replacements have to be obtained again and again.
Local authorities provide recycling and food waste collection services, in line with government policy, in the hope of encouraging the public to properly sort their waste at home, thereby contributing overall to the reduction of waste that goes to landfill.
Waste management companies are also contributing towards this reduction, by sorting rubbish once it is collected from commercial and residential locations. The waste is then sorted into recyclable waste, combustible waste; used to generate electricity, and items that can only go to landfill.
Everyone should contribute towards this effort, by sorting and recycling waste from our homes and businesses. This saves local authorities money, and ensures waste streams are purer. It is easier to recycle at source and saves money in the long term, offering a much more cost effective deal for the taxpayer.