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We might as well be burying sacks of cash: The true cost of landfill rubbish sites

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It’s not just dumping rubbish in a hole in the ground, you know

The act of sending rubbish to landfill sites is far more expensive and damaging as most people think, because it isn’t all about burying waste in a hole in the ground and forgetting about it.

That’s the view of a waste management company, which says more people need to know the true financial and environmental cost of waste disposal to encourage them into better recycling habits. says that “hidden” costs such as constant monitoring of landfill sites mean that burying rubbish is not the simple relatively cost-free solution many people believe it to be – and if people knew the truth there’d be more pressure on the authorities to cut landfill use to the bare minimum.

“It’s thousands of pounds, per site, per year, until eternity,” founder Mark Hall says.

“The uncomfortable fact is that even dormant landfill sites need monitoring years after they close. The threat of pollution and other hazards remains real decades after the last truck has delivered its load.

“If people knew how much it costs – both financially and environmentally, everybody would make greater efforts toward ethical waste disposal.”

A recent HM Government Environment Agency report on a recently-closed landfill site near Gateshead lays bare the costs and difficulties maintaining such a facility safely, even after its gates close.

• Documents seen by show the efforts required just to keep foul smells out of the nostrils of nearby residents, including an “odour diary” ranking smells from zero to “likely to induce vomiting”.

• Ongoing operations at Gateshead include the establishment of air monitoring stations, gas wells to prevent the build-up of methane, and – of course – making good the area to restore it to a living environment.

All this is incredibly expensive, and the costs involved will continue over many years to ensure public and environmental safety, Business Waste says.

“We might as well be burying sacks of cash along with all that refuse,” Mark Hall says. “It’s tens of thousands of pounds for every site in the country. We’re talking millions in total, every year.”

Gateshead is just one of hundreds of full sites up and down the country where this is happening, and we can’t take our eye off the ball and stop monitoring, as this could easily lead to the threat of local environmental catastrophe.

Sites which closed decades ago are still having to be watched for methane gas and polluted ground water, says. By continuing to use landfill as a waste solution only adds to this problem.

“We’re going to have to pay for the mistakes of the past for years to come, and there’s no escaping it,” says ‘s Mark Hall.

“Do you want poisoned groundwater? No. Then we’re committed to this problem.”

According to, improving the UK’s admittedly poor recycling rates and investing in alternative solutions need to be addressed urgently. It’s an approach that has been a raging success in Baltic and Nordic countries and can be a success in the UK, too.

“The best thing we can do is to find greener, safer alternatives to burying our waste in big holes in the ground and pretending it’s out of sight and out of mind,” says Hall.

“I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend money on good things, rather than clearing up after bad.”

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