Rubbish bins

Landfill

Landfills have traditionally been the predominant method of disposing of waste around the world. They are still the principal method of disposal in Western Australia. It is now recognised that landfills that are not managed correctly, now or in the past, pose a significant environmental risk, and marshlands that were once filled in are now seen to possess a large ecological value that is worth preserving. Landfills have often been used to dispose of materials that have significant reuse or recovery value. The worldwide trend is to divert valuable wastes from landfill into reuse or recovery avenues and use landfills only for those materials that are inert or that are intractable.

What Is A Landfill?

Landfills can be classified under three general categories (their distinguishing characteristics can be viewed by clicking on each option (UNEP IETC, 1999)):

Most landfills are on a continuum between the three, with facilities in developing countries usually falling between open dumps and controlled dumps.

Open dumps are common in developing countries and regional areas of developed countries due to low initial costs and lack of expertise and equipment. They pose significant risks to human health and the environment. In addition, the cost of remediating these sites can easily exceed their total lifetime capital and operating costs. Contaminated groundwater may never be returned to usable condition and other environmental impacts may take many decades to amend. Open dumps attract vermin and disease vectors, such as birds, rodents and flies.

Open dumps are common in developing countries and regional areas of developed countries due to low initial costs and lack of expertise and equipment. They pose significant risks to human health and the environment. In addition, the cost of remediating these sites can easily exceed their total lifetime capital and operating costs. Contaminated groundwater may never be returned to usable condition and other environmental impacts may take many decades to amend. Open dumps attract vermin and disease vectors, such as birds, rodents and flies.

Due to these concerns, open dumps are being progressively closed throughout the world. The reality of inadequate technical, managerial and financial resource in many places, however, that waste managers must attempt to ameliorate open dumping practices and gradually upgrade the sites.

The Department of Environment has released Best Practice Environmental Management Draft Siting, Design, Operation and Rehabilitation of Landfills.

References

  1. Guidelines for Acceptance of Solid Waste to Landfill, 2001, WA DEP
  2. Landfill Waste Classification and Waste Definitions 1996, amended 2001, WA DEP
  3. International Source Book on Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs) for Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM), 1999, UNEP IETC, http://www.unep.or.jp/ietc/ESTdir/Pub/MSW/index.asp