by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
We might as well be burying sacks of cash: The true cost of landfill rubbish sites
It's not just dumping rubbish in a hole in the ground, you know. The act of sending rubbish to landfill sites is far more expensive and damaging as most people think, because it isn't all about burying waste in a hole in the ground and forgetting about it.
It would appear that more people need to know the true financial and environmental cost of waste disposal to encourage them into better recycling habits, or better still the habits of reducing waste and reusing what they have, including some packaging, such as glass jars, etc. And this Blog is dealing often enough with the hows and wherefores of this, including instructions.
Recycling, as we have discussed before, is also not the be all and end all that it is made out to be so often by the powers-that-be and others.
The “hidden” costs such as constant monitoring of landfill sites mean that burying rubbish is not the simple relatively cost-free solution many people believe it to be – and if people knew the truth there would be more pressure on the authorities to cut landfill use to the bare minimum. The cost is thousands of pounds, per site, per year, until eternity, basically. But pressure must also be brought to bear to do the recycling bit properly.
Waste reduction, and that is where industry and retail also and especially has a great part to play, is the first and utmost priority. Then comes reuse, repurposing and upcycling, by individuals and others. Then comes recycling including composting and anaerobic digestion for methane production. The final small amount, and should really only be a small amount of things that can't go the other routes, should then be not buried in the ground but burned in waste to energy plants.
The uncomfortable fact is that even dormant landfill sites need monitoring years after they close. The threat of pollution and other hazards remains real decades after the last truck has delivered its load. In addition to that they leak methane for many more decades to come. Though as to the latter, the methane, that problem could be dealt with – if the will would be there – by using it as a source for energy generation. Even though methane being basically natural gas and thus can be used to power electricity generation and could also be piped into homes for heating and cooking most landfill sites simply vent it off. That despite the fact that methane is many times more dangerous a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide.
If people knew how much it costs – both in financial and environmental terms, everybody, I should think, would make greater efforts toward ethical waste disposal and also and especially hold authorities and industry to account.
All this monitoring is incredibly expensive, and the costs involved will continue over many years to ensure public and environmental safety. It is a sum of tens of thousands of pounds for every site in the country and thus we are talking millions in total, every year, for decades and decades.
We cannot afford to take our eye off the ball and stop monitoring, as this could easily lead to the threat of local environmental catastrophe. Sites which closed decades ago are still having to be watched for methane gas and polluted ground water. By continuing to use landfill as a waste solution only adds to this problem.
The best thing we can do is to find greener, safer alternatives to burying our waste in big holes in the ground and pretending it is out of sight and out of mind and those are very much along the lines that I have mentioned above. It is serious time for a change if we do not want to create a legacy that – sooner or later and it probably will be sooner – is coming to haunt us and bite us in the proverbial. And that is aside from the money that it costs to maintain these places.