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Landfills have been a growing issue for the environment for too long. For centuries rubbish has been piling up, releasing tonnes of carbon into the air. Sadly, waste that isn’t recycled, incinerated or reused typically gets thrown into landfills and sometimes ends up on our beaches and in the oceans. In 2019, the UK produced 14.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gases just from landfill sites. Although this figure has decreased since 2010, we must find ways to reduce this so that we are not susceptible to the growing negative effects of these sites.

The high volume of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere contributes to global warming, damaging the earth’s soil and air quality, destroying thousands of miles of habitats and land. This blog will highlight the lasting effects Landfill sites have on our environment and its inhabitants. With the mention of a few landfill alternatives which can greatly reduce your carbon footprint!

The effects on the Areas and Wildlife

Annually, around 15 million tonnes of rubbish is dumped into landfill sites in the UK. After time, the waste begins to seep toxic substances into the ground, destroying the terrain and causing mass land contamination. These substances can travel widely within the earth and reach nearby water sources, harming humans and wildlife. 

The spread of these substances can affect wetlands and natural ecosystems located close by and in, turn cause lasting damage to the plants and wildlife. Many animals are becoming victims of these consequences and are mistakenly consuming plastics and toxic products, which can suffocate them. Also, the hazardously high levels of contaminants significantly impact soil fertility and can be poisonous for many animals.

These giant waste-filled sites are directly impacting the lives of millions of animals worldwide, by destroying habitats and making areas uninhabitable for animals to live in. Landfills create severe consequences, such as attracting large amounts of rodents. As the population of these mice and rats multiply, they stem off into different territories looking for food, and can eventually stumble across land and local businesses which can affect livelihoods; damaging produce, livestock and products.

The effects of Flooding on Landfill

According to a study conducted by Queen Mary University, back in 2016, it was determined that approximately 1,215 landfill sites are located in the coastal regions of England and Wales. Many sites across the UK are at extreme risk of flooding and erosion, both of which could bring great peril to wildlife. 

From the flooding, waste and chemicals from landfills can be mixed into bodies of water with fish and other marine animals. Sediment washed in with the tide can reduce quality and decrease oxygen levels in a body of water. The erosion of coastal land can cause changes in the water quality and damage the ideal environments for some animals on the beaches and coasts, to thrive.

The Local effects of Landfill sites

One of the first things people think about when they hear about a landfill is the disturbing smell. The main reason behind this stench is rainwater that filters through the landfill. The mixing of the two creates something referred to as leachate. The Leachate creates a putrid smell that can be picked up as far as 20 miles away! 

Another reason for the bad smell is the chemical reaction caused by hydrogen sulphide and ammonia. These compounds are created from bacteria spawning in landfills, and when merged cause a rotting odour to emit from the sites. Which is very pungent and can reach surrounding areas, affecting local communities and towns. 

For example, residents around Walleys Quarry Landfill in Silverdale are undergoing extreme measures to simplify life under these foul-smelling conditions. These disgusting settings are affecting people’s daily lives. Residents have reported waking up in the middle of the night with sore throats and breathing issues. They’ve spoken about how those with asthma have had their conditions become severe, whereas some have also reported having itchy eyes and frequent nosebleeds. 

Some days it is considered so alarming that students are forced indoors during lunch, to prevent any potential health effects. Aaron Bell, a member of the conservative party for Newcastle-under-Lyme says “The waste industry is one that most people would rather not think about, but that is not an option for people who live close to a landfill site, because of the impact that it can have on their lives.”

The Waste within Landfill sites

Think about any form of household waste, and you would likely find an abundance of it in landfill sites. Rotten food, plastics, metals, tissues, batteries and electronics, are just a handful of things that can be found. The majority of these products can be recycled if processed and treated correctly.

One of the worrying things is that most of this waste can take centuries to decompose. With plastic bottles taking anywhere up to 450 years, batteries taking 100 years, and depending on the metal it can range anywhere between 50-500 years! 

A lot of food, both edible and rotten, ends up in Landfill for all sorts of reasons, causing a significant portion of the greenhouse gases produced from these sites. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to throwing food/food waste away. As mentioned in our blog on food waste, Organisations such as ORCA, and OLIO provide efficient food waste solutions which divert food from landfills. As well as anaerobic digestion which is also mentioned and explained in the blog.

At Bywaters, we provide waste management services for a range of businesses and anyone who requires waste solutions. We process your waste to ensure we get the best from what’s collected, sorting and putting the materials to good use. We strive to send Zero Waste to landfills, making sure that all forms of waste are repurposed by either; recycling, being reused, composted or sent to energy recovery facilities.


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