Why we need to stop using landfill sites
For years, Britain has produced millions of tonnes of rubbish every year, and buried it in the ground.
This is a process known as landfill, and it means taking rubbish to a site outside of town, dumping it in a hole, and bulldozing it flat.
For a long time, we didn’t particularly care what we buried in landfill sites, because we weren’t too bothered about what happened after the bulldozers had piled soil on top.
Those days are over, and now Britain is making an effort to stop using landfill. Why is this?
The first reason is that we are running out of space. In a country of 64 million people, not many want to live near a landfill site, and those that we still have are filling up fast. The government says we could run out of landfill space within ten years unless we come up with something.
Then there’s pollution. Burying things may sound like a good idea, but dangerous chemicals leak into the water table and then into the environment. Can you imagine how many millions of old batteries are in landfill sites, leaking out their chemicals?
In many cases, it’s not possible to build on top of landfill sites, because organic waste buried there produces methane gas that has to be collected somehow or vented off. Nobody wants to live in a housing estate built on top of an unstable pile of dangerous rubbish.
Fortunately, we now have laws limiting the amount of rubbish that gets buried, and people are being encouraged to recycle more to cut down on the amount of landfill waste.
Companies have to pay a landfill tax, which means that there’s an £80 charge for every tonne of waste they produce. For most companies this adds up very quickly, which means it makes financial sense to find better ways to recycle their rubbish.
One solution is “energy recovery”. This is a way of burning rubbish that can’t be recycled, but using the heat to generate electricity. This still has to be done carefully, as we don’t want to produce fumes and smoke that poison the environment, and people don’t like living close to the plants.
The bottom line is that we can’t keep using landfill. Our best bet is to keep recycling as much as we can.