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What would happen if we closed a landfill?

A landfill is an eyesore, to say the least. Not to mention the dangers that coincide with piling all of the waste from surrounding areas into one designated spot. Despite these facts, a landfill is capable of becoming much more than a place to dump trash—it has the potential to become the epicenter of growth. But first, it must be closed.

The average size of a landfill in the United States is 600 acres. With over 3,000 landfills across the country, that adds up to over 1.8 million acres of land designated as the final resting place of trash. A lot of land with potential is used for our waste! The marring of land from years of trash building up in a landfill can be reversed, and the task of reversing the effects of landfills is not only possible but encouraged.

The most common and popular answer for a closed landfill is to transform it into a community park. The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating parks and safe communities for all, estimates that there are about 1,000 parks sitting on old dump sites. One of the more famous landfill-turned-community parks is located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is now known as Mount Trashmore Park, or more commonly as Mount Trashmore. The park consists of skate ramps, walking and biking paths, and even man-made lakes. It is a prime example of the potential that a closed landfill holds.

Mount Trashmore Park Boat Dock in Virginia Beach
Mount Trashmore Park Boat Dock in Virginia Beach

Another popular use is to return it to its natural state—an oasis for the plants and animals that were driven out by its creation and use, as encouraged by the Wildlife Habitat Council, a group that promotes and educates habitat conservation. If plots of the land prove to be capable of growing and cultivating life after examination, then native plant life is brought in and left to grow on its own. If the plant life takes to the soil, after a period of time, native wildlife has been known to return.

Now, these almost seem too good to be true and too easily executed, but there are some definite problems with building upon a closed landfill. For instance, as the trash beneath the ground deteriorates, the land may shift and cause complications on the surface. Another problem is the buildup of gasses as the waste decomposes that, if not properly released, can possibly become dangerous. Although these problems are real, they are addressed and easily fixed.

A closed landfill, despite its past, contains the potential to become the foundation of future joy and life. If we do our part to reduce the amount of waste we create, reuse items more than once, and recycle products to be used for a new use instead of throwing them away, we'll keep reducing our dependency on landfills.

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