In a world where we produce over twenty times more plastic today than we did 50 years ago and the average UK citizen throws away their own body weight in rubbish every seven weeks, there is a growing concern for the harm that landfills can cause. As experienced environmental consultants, we share this concern and celebrate any interest in alternative, renewable energy solutions.
Today we’d like to share some basic information on this subject and shed some light onto the workings of a landfill site to help bring your attention to both the issues and solutions our planet is presented with.
What Happens On A Landfill Site?
Before you can begin to understand the environmental issues regarding landfill sites, you must first understand how they work. There are various steps within this waste disposal process, some man-made and others natural, to be aware of. The main four are as follows:
- The waste arrives and the contents are checked and weighted. There are rules and regulations in place, so all waste is examined to ensure it complies with the landfill operating licence.
- If the waste complies, it is then thrown into the ‘tipping face’ of the landfill, compacted by a specialist machine and buried with layers of soil and various ‘cover materials’. The landfill is covered at regular intervals, including the end of each day, to reduce odour and deter animal infestations.
- The waste in the landfill, once dumped and buried, is naturally broken down by microbes. Microbes are produced under anaerobic conditions and as the landfill is starved of oxygen, the decomposition process is kicked off organically. When it rains, water is filtered through the landfills and this produces a liquid named leachate.
- Though a liquid, leachate is also a gas made up mostly of carbon dioxide and methane and is highly harmful to the environment. It is because of its dangerous nature that the gas is burned off or directed to an energy generation plant to be converted into electricity. The liquid also has to be handled with care – pumped into storage tanks, treated and cleaned before being released into the sewer.
Isn’t There A Better Way?
The process of waste disposal via landfills sounds dangerous because, simply put, it is. Methane is around 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide and releasing it into the atmosphere has momentous global warming consequences. Luckily, there is a better way and that is the use of ERF (Energy Recovery Facilities).
How Does Energy Recovery Work?
Energy Recovery takes outstanding waste, unsuitable for recycling and composting, and uses it to create heat and power to generate electrical and thermal energy. Instead of being dumped into a landfill and ultimately, the atmosphere, waste can now be managed in a harmless, lucrative and constructive way.
Energy Recovery is, of course, carried out in highly controlled conditions and specialist facilities only to ensure the utmost safety. It is the most effective way to tackle waste management and a solution every government, business and individual should take the time to understand.
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