In England alone businesses and households generate approximately 177 million tonnes of waste each year. While some of this is reused or recycled, much of it ends up in landfill – at a cost to our environment.

It's important that we all reduce the amount of rubbish we produce, and focus on proper waste disposal to decrease the amount that ends up in landfill sites and make sure the impact on the environment is minimal.

What is a landfill site?

A landfill site is an area of land where local authorities and industries take waste to be compacted with other waste and buried. Typically, landfill sites contain both household and commercial rubbish.

We need landfill sites to dispose of rubbish that cannot be reused or recycled, but it's essential we think of them as the last resort.

What's wrong with putting rubbish in landfill?

Landfill RubbishThere are several reasons we need to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill. Firstly, landfill sites will not last forever. Once a site is full, it's capped with a clay or plastic liner, then a little soil, and finally grassed over. It cannot be used again. In 2007, it was reported that in Britain an area the size of Warwick was taken up by landfill. Recent studies have suggested that we could run out of landfill sites by 2018 if we continue to use them at the same rate.

Landfill sites pose an environmental hazard. Landfill gas is created by biodegradable waste decomposing, mainly carbon dioxide and methane, both of which are harmful 'greenhouse gases.' Methane causes additional problems because it's flammable and can cause explosions and fires. At some landfill sites the gas is burnt off, while at others it's used to generate electricity.

Landfill sites also create leachate, a polluting liquid run-off that has to be collected and disposed of at a wastewater plant before it gets into streams where it can cause significant harm to wildlife.

Finally, putting materials in a hole in the ground means they can never be used again, so if we bury stuff that could be reused, we then have to obtain new raw materials and manufacture replacements.

The importance of sorting our waste

Government policy means that local councils provide food waste and recycling collections to encourage everybody to sort their waste at home and do their bit in reducing the amount that goes to landfill.

In addition, waste management companies are doing their bit to ensure that all rubbish is sorted once it's been collected from our doorsteps or in skips from construction sites. This rubbish is sorted into items that can be recycled, items that can be burnt to generate electricity, and items that need to go to landfill. As a result, waste that ends up in landfill sites is being reduced.

We must all do our bit to sort and recycle the waste within our homes and businesses. Recycling at source saves the council money and creates waste streams that are clearer and purer. Proper waste disposal helps us all in the long run.

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