19th Dec, 2016
Ask anybody, and you’ll find that no one likes landfill. It’s not difficult to see why; it’s ugly, smelly and it poses clear health hazards to humans and our environment. As a nation, we’re steadily improving on ways to decrease the amount of waste we send to landfill, and we’re getting better at recycling our rubbish rather than simply tossing it all into bins or skips. But you might be interested to learn that landfills are evolving right alongside us, and the people who manage them are aiming to minimise their harmful effects. Here are just some of the ways they’ve improved.
The first landfills were exactly what they sound like: huge man-made holes in the ground, into which rubbish was simply dumped and – often haphazardly – sealed. Plants and vegetation were planted on the topsoil, but they had an unfortunate tendency to die more or less immediately, due to the methane gas being emitted by the rotting waste underneath them. Meanwhile, the underground pits themselves lacked any sort of barrier or layer between them and the surrounding soil, meaning that they didn’t have any sort of protection from leachates; a technical term for the water that leaked through the waste, picking up contaminants on the way – which were then often carried into surrounding streams or rivers.
Waste above ground was often openly burned, causing a major danger to climate change and a tangible risk to human health. Meanwhile, unregulated landfill gases were known to drift offsite, actually becoming explosion risks elsewhere.
When it comes to matters of health, nowadays nobody skips any steps. To account for these shortcomings, modern landfills have a raft of restrictions they must abide by, and are much more closely monitored for any potential dangers. Their air and water emissions especially are much more tightly controlled, severely limiting their damage potential.
Today landfills are built far away from human habitation, in specially chosen sites that meet a number of strict criteria. Structural integrity and environmental health are two of the top concerns; fault areas and floodplains are two examples of places where councils are almost always forbidden to build landfills, for obvious reasons. Exceptions are only allowed if councils can prove they have protective measures in place against earthquakes or floods. The locations of natural rivers and streams are also taken into account, with a priority being placed on keeping them safe from contamination.
Once a modern landfill site is actually built, their layouts are strictly regulated. Waste is only tipped into designated ‘active’ zones at any one time, allowing for increased control over the way the waste breaks down and making it easier to collect the gas emissions and leachate products. Far from being allowed to drift off into our atmosphere, most British landfill sites now contain these collected gas emissions and put them into turbines. These turbines then generate electricity which goes straight back into the national grid, powering our homes and businesses. In fact, the waste management sector is the single leading generator of the UK’s renewable energy, reportedly producing up to 25% of it – much of this from landfill gas.
Attention is also paid to the machines used to operate the landfill sites, which undergo constant adjustments to improve their efficiency. When a site finally reaches its capacity, its managers are legally required to oversee its restoration, so that it can in future once again be used for agricultural purposes or natural conservation.
Of course, this is what happens to all the rubbish that ends up on landfill sites. A lot of our waste doesn’t even make it that far! We’ve already covered the advancements we’ve made with recycling as a nation. The UK still abides by the Landfill Directive, an EU directive implemented in 2001 that sets out biodegradable targets, as well as universal technical standards that all sites must abide by. Meanwhile, the Landfill Tax brought in by the British government means it costs more for councils to send waste to landfills, nudging them into investing more into their local recycling infrastructure.
At Skip Hire Network, we’re proud to be a part of that recycling infrastructure. We’re committed to green causes, and we recycle as much of the waste we receive as humanly possible. Not only that, but our process is simple, and we do as much of the work for you as we can. You can read more about our process here, and or just enter your details into our website to receive an instant skip hire quote!