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Landfills atia amatullah


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  • 1. Atia Amatullah
  • 2.  Most people think of landfills as dumps.  Open holes where garbage is deposited, swarming with vermin and other animals.A landfill is a bit more carefully designed.  Usually a hole built into the ground with a bottom liner, isolating garbage from coming into contact with the environment.
  • 3.  Two types of landfills:  Sanitary: lined with layers of clay, sand and plastic.  Secure: almost same as a sanitary landfill, but with thicker layers of clay and plastic.  For dumping hazardous materials (sometimes separated into barrels to prevent mixing of incompatible wastes). Federalregulation restricts building landfills near faults or bodies of water.
  • 4.  Landfills are not compost piles.  Buried waste is kept away from moisture and oxygen and therefore is not decomposed easily. After closing, the site and especially the groundwater have to be monitored for up to 30 years. Fresh Kills Landfill: Staten Island, NY
  • 5.  Two categories of solid wastes:  Municipal solid waste (~1%): from residences, businesses, etc.  Paper, yard wastes, food scraps, plastics, metals, glass.  Non-municipal solid waste (~99%): industry, agriculture, mining, oil and gas production.  Construction materials, waste water, sludge, pesticide containers.
  • 6.  Daily,the average American produces 4.6 lbs of garbage. Annually, the US produces over 545 million tons of solid waste (both MSW and non-MSW).  Not including hazardous industrial waste.  Equivalent to 247,000 space shuttles or 2.3 million Boeing 747s.
  • 7.  The US leads the pack in sending 53.4% of its MSW to landfills.  China sends 43% of its MSW to landfills. USestimated to have about 10,000 abandoned landfills, but UNEP says there may be as many as 40,000.  6 European countries, combined, estimated to have 55,000 abandoned landfills.  About 1,000 or so are active.
  • 8.  Contamination of groundwater.  Rainwater percolates through landfills collects at the bottom liner, from where it is piped out.  This leachate contains things like dioxin, mercury, and pesticides and can contaminate nearby aquifers.  Cracks/breaks in piping or liners.  2008: 82% of surveyed landfills had leaks; 41% had leaks larger than a square foot.
  • 9.  Many older landfills built before stricter regulations were introduced are located near large bodies of water. Resulting ease of dilution of contaminants makes it difficult for monitoring wells to detect initial leaks.
  • 10.  Releasing methane (CH4):  20x more effective greenhouse gas than CO2.  Aerobic bacteria quickly deplete any O2 available for decomposition, after which anaerobic bacterial decomposition dominates the overall process.  Landfills in the US release ¼th of all CH4.  Gas-to-energy: more efficient landfills collect up to 75% of this CH4, but less efficient ones collect a mere 9%.
  • 11.  Incinerators:  Most landfills have incinerators that burn a certain portion of the garbage dumped in them.  Waste-to-energy: produce steam that generates electricity.  Only 0.3% of US power generation.  Produces CO2, SO2, various oxides of nitrogen, mercury/other heavy metal compounds and dioxins.  Climate change, smog, carcinogens.
  • 12.  Pollution caused by transportation of garbage.  Diesel trucks and trains.  Nearly 40 toxic substances in diesel exhaust.  EPA identifies as potential human carcinogen.
  • 13.  Running out of space to build landfills.  Less active landfills, but newer ones more likely to be larger.  Also, less than 10-15% of closed landfills get redeveloped.  NIMBY syndrome:  Many states, like New York and New Jersey, ship their garbage to other states willing to take them.  Hazardous materials to sub-Saharan Africa.
  • 14.  Cj1Y Recycle!  Reduces environmental costs of using landfills and incinerators.  Reduces demand for natural resources.  Pre-consumer and post-consumer recycling.  Curbside, drop-off, and recycling centers.
  • 15.  Composting:  Recycles organic yard wastes and food scraps.  Returns nutrients to soil like in natural systems.  Home composters and municipal composting facilities.
  • 16.  Reuse!  Paper, plastic bags, bottles, etc. Reduce overall consumption.  Use less packaging.  Make fewer individual packages.  Use less material to produce goods.