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A landfill site is a disposal facility where waste is permanently buried, often in a hole in the ground. When it is full it can be covered up and made to look like part of the landscape. They are usually located in former quarries and are licensed and regulated by the Environment Agency. England's reliance on landfill reflects its geology and extraction industry history, which has made suitable landfill sites relatively abundant throughout the twentieth century. However this is changing and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find suitable areas for landfill sites.
Today, it is quite a complex process. Landfill sites are carefully designed, well controlled and monitored for containment.
The sites are lined with an impermeable layer of clay; then rubbish is tipped into the hole until it reaches the level of the surrounding ground. It is built into or on top of the ground and isolated from the surrounding environment (groundwater, air, rain) and covered daily by a layer of soil. When the hole in the ground is full, it may be covered up and subjected to landscaping to improve its appearance.
As rubbish rots it can have some negative environmental impacts:
The positive aspects of a landfill site:
The regulations, EU landfill directive (99/31/EC) and the UK National Waste Strategy aim to reduce the volume, types and quantities of waste that can be sent to landfill and increase recycling rates. Rubbish put in a landfill will stay there for a very long time. In certain areas, suitable places for landfill sites are becoming rare and capacity will run out in a few years. Nobody wants to live near a landfill site. So what can you do about it? You can re-think the way you consume in order to reduce your waste and you can reuse and recycle.
In a landfill site, waste will decompose depending upon sunlight, rain water and other conditions. Decomposition means the breakdown of organic materials. Here is a selection of decomposition times.
|Material||Example of decomposition time||What you can do|
|Cans||80 to 100 years||Recycle in your green or purple box|
|Cardboard||several months to 5 years||Recycle in your green or purple box|
|Cigarette butts||12 to 40 years||Quit!|
|Disposable nappies||100 years to never||Use cloth nappies|
|Fruit and vegetables||6 months to 2 years||Compost your food scraps|
|Glass bottles and jars||Never||Recycle in your green or purple box|
|Paper||5 months to 50 years||Recycle in your green or purple box|
|Plastic bottles||50-100 years to Never||Recycle in your green purple box|
|Motor Oil||10 to 30 years||Recycle it at the Reuse and Recycling Centre|
The decomposition information was provided by the following sources:
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This page was last updated on Friday 4 November 2011