24 Apr Landfill waste-not want not
In the UK, every year alone, we produce 400 million tons of waste. As soon as rubbish is put in a bin, it adds to the growing mass of waste mountains.
Because of this, since the 1990s, the amount of operating landfill sites in the UK has fallen. It is believed that within the next 7 years, England will run out of landfill space. This statistic highlights the strain on the remaining sites, as we are urgently running out of space. So then, why are we not recycling?
Is recycling the way forward?
Or is it just a waste of time?
Landfill sites are obviously not a sustainable option. Reducing the amount of rubbish that we bin is a much cheaper and an eco-friendlier choice. It is estimated that 60% of waste within landfill is recyclable, therefore correct disposal of recyclable materials can help to minimise landfill waste.
Recycling would help towards a zero-waste economy. The ‘zero waste’ goal requires the economy to reduce, reuse and recycle 100% of the materials we use. That may feel like a million miles away, but any steps towards this would be completely beneficial. Throwing away products, especially plastics, should always be a last resort.
However, despite all the campaigns for recycling, watchdog has warned that recycled products may in fact end up in landfill. It has been evidenced that some of our resources are being sent and dumped abroad.
It is important to remember that the waste that we are putting in bins not only creates a space issue but also disturbs the soil, water and air. As a result, the local community’s health is affected.
This is because the landfill creates a gas which is produced when organic materials decompose. Landfill gas (LFG) can influence climate change, as the major components of methane and carbon dioxide are both greenhouse gases.
Is waste a problem or the resource?
Luckily, some of the waste can be used to create energy. Energy plants can make use of combustible materials in order to produce electricity. Landfill can still make an important contribution towards the UK’s renewable energy supply if managed correctly, but this is something which can’t be guaranteed. But when utilised, nearly 900 MW of electrical generating capacity runs on landfill gas, and over the last year landfill gas sites produced nearly 3.04TWh of green electricity.
Over the years, the amount of waste that ends up in landfill has significantly reduced. A possible reason for this could be because we have now reached a stage where it is more expensive to send waste to landfill than it is to recycle, due to landfill tax, gate fees etc. This therefore reduces the amount of landfill gas that is being produced. Less organic matter is put to waste, which is better for the environment and to those within the area, due to less incineration fumes.