The long term consequences of Landfills
Most people probably don't think about what is happening with their garbage after they take it to the curb to be picked up. You go about your day like normal, with virtually no thought about where it's going, or what’s happening to it. In the meantime, your garbage is going to a landfill. Let’s discuss the long-term consequences of Landfills and their effect on the environment.
What exactly is a landfill? A landfill is a large area specifically used for trash to be dumped in. The trash is either dumped into a huge dug-out hole or piled on top directly on the ground. The trash that goes into the landfill is made up of things that cannot be reused or recycled. Food waste, paper, plastics, metal, glass, rubber, wood, and textiles make up the majority of the waste. Most of these things can be reused, recycled, or recovered.
Why does any of this matter? Well, landfills are known for causing harm to the environment and health issues. Listed below are some of the negative effects landfills have:
Methane gas is the most impactful greenhouse gas to come from landfills, making it a huge contributor to climate change. It is 84 times more effective at absorbing the sun's heat.
To create a landfill you have to have to buy the land for it, and clear it completely, which destroys the natural habitat for animals in that area. The oxygen around landfills can also be depleted, causing water and plant life to become a “dead zone”. In these areas, animals cannot survive. The average landfill is about 600 acres, and there are around 3,000 active landfills in the US. That’s a lot of damage.
The gas emitted from landfills can be very harmful to the people who work there, or even live within one mile of them. It can even cause birth defects in their children.
The gasses landfills produce can cause fires to start very easily. If the fires are not controlled, they can spread and destroy other habitats around the landfill.
So, what can we do to decrease the harmful consequences landfills have? A little over 65% of homes' and businesses' trash is taken to a landfill where it just sits. If we decrease our own trash at home by recycling, reusing, and composting, it will decrease the amount of trash. Remember, you have a recycling bin for a reason, don’t be afraid to use it! You can decrease the number of single-use plastics you use by buying containers you can use more than a few times. Landfills don't have enough air to decompose food waste, so by composting them at home you are directly helping the environment. Plus, your garden will look even more beautiful from this.
While landfills are a necessary part of our lives to prevent diseases and keep us clean, there are other ways we can reduce our need for them and decrease their effects on our world.