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The greater costs of larger landfills

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Written by: Alexa Stone
Toxic liquid — leachate — can drain from landfills and contaminate water supplies.

Nearly 70 local governments have canceled or suspended curbside recycling since 2017, when China put scrap import restrictions in place.[1] Less recycling means more waste. Some of that may be incinerated, and some (especially cans and bottles) will go to landfills.[2]

Larger landfills are more than a real estate expense. More than 60,000 untested chemicals pervade consumer products. When those products are expended, the discarded containers may include poisons and metals. At landfills, the rainwater that drains through that waste can become contaminated by it. That resulting landfill leachate carries toxins into groundwater, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

Water supplies are already seriously challenged in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Georgia. Those states have had the highest per capita rate of the Safe Water Drinking Act violations.[3]

Landfills also pollute the air. They produce methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more damaging than CO2. Beyond accelerating the climate crisis, landfills give off gases and odors that permeate communities. Even after a landfill is closed and sodded or paved-over, the surface is likely to crack. Time, weather, and wear eventually bring further leakage.[4]

One way to limit landfill concerns is quite familiar:  reduce, reuse, recycle. And… when contaminants are excluded from recycling, less waste goes to landfills.

News and Notes items accompany the longer articles found in ecoPreserve’s newsletter, Sharing Sustainability. Several issues of the newsletter can be previewed here.

[1] — Recycling policies in 2020
[2] — Cities killing or scaling back recycling programs
[3] — States having the worst drinking water
[4] — Toxins from waste