What is a Landfill?

A landfill is a designated area in which a carefully designed structure is built into or top of the ground where waste is brought and dumped. The purpose of building a landfill is to avoid any connection between the waste and the surrounding environment, particularly groundwater. There are several steps that are taken to avoid contact with groundwater; one is with a bottom liner and daily covering of soil, giving the effect of a bathtub in the ground. Some landfills in states with stricter environmental laws are double-lined, giving the same effect as one bathtub inside another. Unfortunately all landfills, whatever precautions that have been taken, will undoubtedly leak out the bottom or the top.

Landfills are the easiest and cheapest solution to getting rid of garbage problems. Landfills contain primarily Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), commonly known as garbage, which consists of every day household items such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, appliances, paint and batteries. According to studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States produces over 200 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) every year. Further EPA studies have shown that while approximately 28% of the MSW is recycled or composted, and 15% is burnt at combustion facilities, the remaining hefty 57% is disposed off in landfills.

US EPA Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)

Although landfills may be the cheapest and easiest solution to waste problems in our society, they contribute significantly to major environmental and human health problems.