What is a landfill?

UK Home Improvement

What is a Landfill?

Are you wondering “What is landfill?” If so, you’re not alone. Landfill is one of those words we hear all the time, yet many of us aren’t entirely sure what exactly it is. Read on to find out more about landfills and why they’re bad for the environment. 

Landfills – the oldest form of waste disposal 

A landfill, which is also known as a dump, dumping ground or tip is a site for the disposal of various types of waste. Landfill is the oldest form of waste disposal, originating over 5000 years ago in Crete, where rubbish was deposited in large pits that were then covered over with earth when full. Modern landfill sites are usually created either from a void made by quarrying or as part of a land reclamation scheme.

How much waste goes to landfill?

Of the 26 million tonnes of waste we produce in the UK, 14 million tonnes are sent to landfill sites. Landfill sites contain both household and commercial waste. Household waste consists of mainly organic waste such as food, wood, paper and cardboard or wood. Other common household rubbish includes plastic and tin packaging. A lot of waste that makes it way to landfill comes from commercial businesses and construction sites and includes concrete, bricks, rubble and soil. This is known as inert waste since it’s unlikely to react with other rubbish, which makes it relatively safe for landfill. 

How many landfill sites are there in the UK? 

Even though landfill sites have traditionally been the most common means of waste disposal, there are now only around 500 of them in the UK. Having said this, the UK has one of the biggest landfills in the world, with the Packington Landfill just outside Birmingham forming a towering hill of rubbish over 380 acres of countryside. Since it’s not hidden underground, it’s known as a ‘land raise’. Packington mainly takes rubbish from Birmingham and Warwickshire, although it has previously accepted waste from other locations such as London and Glasgow. 

Why are landfills bad for the environment?

Now you what is landfill, you might be wondering why they’re so bad for the environment. Landfill sites are not just a huge eyesore; they’re also a major source of pollution. The rubbish contained in them breaks down very slowly, making them a big problem for future generations. One of the biggest issues with landfills is that they produce methane, alongside many other toxic gases. As the organic waste decomposes, it releases methane, which is a very potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. A typical landfill produces a  huge amount of methane. In fact, it can create enough of it to fuel a power station.

Another reason landfills are so bad for the environment is that much of the waste that ends up in them contains toxic substances. One good example of this is electronic waste, such as TVs, computers and other appliances. They contain many hazardous substances, including PVC, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, solvents, lead and acids. Over the years, these toxins can leach into the soil and groundwater, becoming environmental hazards long into the future.

Leachate is produced when waste breaks down in a landfill and rainwater seeps through that waste. This highly toxic liquid, which contains ammonia and other toxic salts, can pollute land, groundwater and waterways. Landfills contain many substances that are damaging to the environment, including plastics such as PVC, and other materials that leach toxic chemicals when they break down. E-waste is particularly harmful since it’s packed with heavy metals, solvents and acids. Unfortunately, it’s the fastest growing type of waste in the world and most of it ends up in landfill.

Other secondary side effects of landfills include bad odours, unpleasant views, and rodent and seagull infestations.

The importance of recycling 

As landfills can be so damaging to the environment, recycling our waste is more important than ever. Whilst landfills will always be necessary since not everything we throw away can be reused, we can take steps to reduce our reliance on them by recycling as much as possible. To reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill, we need to think carefully about how we dispose of our rubbish. 

If you’re embarking on a project that’s likely to produce a lot of waste, we recommend hiring a reputable skip hire company that’s renowned for its ethical waste management processes. Before you hire their services, ask them how they manage their waste and how much of it is recycled. Ideally, you should be opting for a company with a zero waste to landfill policy. This can provide you with peace of mind that the majority of your waste will be reused rather than simply dumped in the ground. 

Choose eco-friendly skip hire in Rotherham and Barnsley 

If you’re looking for eco-friendly skip hire in Rotherham or Barnsley, look no further than Beta Skips. As one of the leading skip hire companies in South Yorkshire, serving domestic and commercial customers throughout the region. They offer skips in a variety of sizes, catering to the needs of all types of domestic, commercial and industrial projects.


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