A landfill is a site for the disposal for waste materials. It is the oldest and most common form of waste disposal and thus, is used most commonly worldwide. These are structures built under or on ground to separate the trash around it. This is done by a solid layer called a bottom liner which isolates the waste from the ground around it. However, due to structural damage of Methane and Leachate collecting systems and the bottom liner, and release of toxins, substances stored in the landfill can cause environmental hazards.
Although landfills aren’t designed to decompose the waste, it decomposes overtime resulting in toxic substances forming which affect not only the land, but the air and water surrounding it.
Through the decomposition of electronic waste (televisions, VCRs, phones, fax machines, etc.) a liquid, called Leachate is formed which is highly toxic. This, when water is filtered through it, can leech into the soil around the landfill and pollute the land, groundwater and waterways.
Water in the groundwater and waterways can be picked up by rainwater and supplied to several homes through their main water supply. As Leachate makes the water unusable it can cause many health risks like diarrhoea, anorexia, chest pain and anaemia.
Leachate also contaminates the soil around it which can permanently affect the quality of the soil. Due to the toxins in the soil, the fertility rate of the soil reduces and thus, there would be no vegetation in the area. Treating the affected soil can be a time consuming process and is likely to be very expensive.
Organic material like food scraps and green waste is compacted and covered and it, overtime breaks down anaerobically. This process releases a gas called methane which is a greenhouse gas. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide and thus, causes global warming and climate change, not to mention major depletion of the ozone layer. So, large amounts of methane can cause more severe weather conditions and a higher chance of natural disaster. Moreover, methane is a flammable gas and high concentration of methane could lead to explosions.
People living near poorly maintained landfills are at very high risks of disease; Especially children and the elderly. Health effects from exposure to hazardous waste include cancer, birth defects, low birth weight and genetic mutations. Effects of contaminated water can cause nasal blockage, sleep deprivation and breathing difficulties.
Thus, it is very important to build safe landfill sites and keep check of its conditions.