Landfills are the most common place for garbage to be deposited in North America. While these areas keep refuse out of sight and out of mind for most people, they produce a number of hazardous effects to people, animals, and the environment.
The Problem With Landfills
- Leachate – This refers to liquid (usually water) that absorbs solutes from pieces of physical matter as it passes through, or over it. Landfills produce massive quantities of harmful leachate when rainwater falls onto garbage heaps, absorbing things like battery acid, lead, and chemicals. This water can then be transferred to soils, bodies of water, and in turn, animals and people.
- Sustainability – Landfills are unsustainable. There is only so much land in the world and every year about 175 million tons of refuse enter landfills. While some matter will decompose in landfills, some materials, like plastic and Styrofoam, will last millions of years. Every year landfills take up more and more space.
- Cost – Landfills are costly to operate. Lining systems to protect against leachate are expensive, as is constantly treating water runoff.
- Appearance – Landfills are, for obvious reasons, aesthetically displeasing. They are typically kept away from populated areas, but as the volume of waste increases, they will become more common.
- Smell – For beyond obvious reasons, landfills are pretty offensive to our sense of smell.
- Animal Hazards – Landfills are hazardous to animals. Even if leachate does not enter into the groundwater or nearby streams, it can pool to form puddles that birds drink from. Landfills also contain large quantities of contaminated foods that rodents, birds, and snakes have access to.
- Human Hazards – While few people rush out to grab a bite at the old landfill, the entrance of leachate into streams can be dangerous. Landfills also contain hazardous chemicals potentially harmful to anyone who enters, be it employees or visitors.
- Soil Contamination – Once land is used as a landfill, its soil invariables becomes contaminated. This means that it cannot be used for much else afterwards unless it undergoes a very lengthy remediation process.
- Garbage Can Blow Away – Items from heaps of garbage can be caught by wind and taken out of landfills, and re-deposited in streams, parks, and residential areas.
Each and every person, household or organization can help reduce the amount of garbage sent to our landfills this year. Reducing, Reusing, Recycling and Refusing are the best places to start. Commit to something small this summer, perhaps developing a backyard compost or making the most out of your community green bin program and see how easy it is to make a difference
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