Location Of Landfills Essay, Research Paper
Location Of Landfills
Landfill, as defined in the Electronic Encarta World Dictionary 2000, is a method of solid waste disposal in which refuse is buried between layers of dirt so as to fill in or reclaim low-lying ground. There are numerous environmental issues related to landfills. The one that this paper will concentrate is on the issue regarding the location of landfills.
As old landfills are forced to close due to the massive amounts of waste material contained within, many cities search for new landfill space that will meet the necessary standards. Due to rising construction costs, some cities discovered it was less expensive to ship their garbage to other places than to upgrade old landfills or open new ones. Some even went as far as dumping their waste into bodies of water, disturbing the ecosystem present. About eighty percent of Canada’s garbage goes to landfills, many of them are rapidly running out of room; half are expected to be filled past capacity by the year 2002. Without the immediate introduction of new means of dealing with our garbage there will be no doubt of not only an environmental crisis but also a human crisis.
Specific requirements for the treatment, storage, and disposal of household and solid wastes usually vary considerably from one province to another. In April 1994 the CCME (The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment) published a revised set of regulations for municipal solid waste landfills. According to these rules, planed landfills cites could not be located within earthquake zones, wetlands, floodplains, or near airports. (Hall 17) In Edmonton, the Clover Bar Sanitary Landfill, which opened in November 1975, covers 198 acres and holds over 12 million tonnes of waste. When built, by law the city of Edmonton had to put in several environmental safeguards. Some of these safeguards were: a clay liner that prevents leachate from contacting groundwater, a landfill gas collection system that uses landfill gas to produce electricity and an innovative re-vegetation plan.
Sanitary landfills involve well-designed engineering methods to protect the environment from contamination by solid or liquid wastes. A necessary condition in designing a sanitary landfill is the availability of vacant land that is available to the community being served and has the capacity to handle several years of waste material. (Webster) Of course, the location must also be acceptable to the local community. If a landfill happens to be situated near housing, it would be considered unacceptable because of the affiliated odors and pests. The government also plays a key role in sanitary landfill locations, since governments operate most of them.
There are numerous organizations that want to see an end to landfills and a more environment friendly alternative to handle solid waste. One such organization is “Keep America Beautiful” based out of Washington, D.C. They have been known to join coalitions with various Canadian organizations as well. This particular organization was originally founded to combat littering, but expanded its scope and now has published a curriculum guide and other materials on a variety of waste-related subjects. They also have the reputation of helping communities fight against landfill planners who want to build a landfill close to their residence.
Today, the sanitary landfill is the major method of disposing waste materials in Alberta and in most parts of the world, even though considerable efforts are being made to find alternative methods, such as recycling and composting. In addition, landfills are being engineered to recover the methane gas that they generate during decomposition to make electricity. (Webster) There are initiatives being taken to try and dramatically reduce the amount of waste being dump into our landfills. Following the first Earth Day in 1970 community recycling programs sprang up all over Canada. In hundreds of communities around the nation, recycling centers were opened by civic and environmental groups to which residents brought their household waste. It is estimated that about seventy percent of materials that are routinely disposed in sanitary landfills could be recycled instead. More than thirty percent of bulk municipal garbage collections consist of paper that could be remanufactured into other paper products. Other materials like plastic, metal, and glass can also be reused in manufacturing, which can greatly reduce the amount of waste materials disposed in landfills, as well as preserving sources of nonrenewable raw materials. (Smith)
The composting of organic materials for reuse in gardening and in agriculture can help with the problem of using land to dispose of solid wastes materials. Plant and food substances are biodegradable, meaning they are capable of decomposing through the agency of bacteria, fungi, and other living organisms. (Bleifuss) When substances are not biodegradable they remain in the environment and may be capable of causing harm to the environment. This organic matter is often called synthetic manure. It supplies plants with food and improves soil structure. If mixed with the soil, it helps retain rainfall and plant food. It allows air to enter, prevents solid from crusting, and reduces erosion. As is evident, composting matter instead of dumping it into landfills is beneficial to the environment as well to the consumer.
Bioremediation is a biological technique for reducing waste. It utilizes microorganisms, such as bacteria, into changing waste material into harmless substances. Microorganisms decompose organic compounds using enzymes. This natural process can be used for the treatment of industrial, agricultural, or municipal wastes. Bioremediation is not always successful; thus it is often the most inexpensive method. However, when it is effective, Bioremediation waste treatment is desirable because it is inexpensive, can be done at the site of pollution, and causes minimal physical disturbance to the surrounding area compared to other methods. It is only one of many techniques used for dealing with solid waste.
Other experimental waste reduction methods that rely on chemical and mechanical processes rather than living organisms are currently being tested in secure scientific facilities. One of these is the method of vitrification. Vitrification turns waste into glass by melting it along with batches of molten glass in extremely hot furnaces. “Vitrification can work with almost any form of waste-from soil contaminated by lead or radon [a gaseous element produced by the decay of radium] to medical wastes, industrial sludge, and radioactive wastes.” (Corson 103)
In conclusion, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are in North America approximately 3 100 active landfills and over 11 000 old municipal landfills. There have been hundreds upon hundreds of demonstrations held by citizens to protest the planned development of landfills near their residences. Some have ended with success, but for the most part in disappointment. The only way to stop the use of landfills is to eliminate solid waste, but if quicker, cleaner ways to dispose of trash are invented; fewer people may feel the need to recycle, reuse, and reduce. The bottom line is future solutions cannot solve present-day garbage problems. While the research for improvement continues, waste managers must rely on the technology that is already in place.
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Bleifuss, Scott. Waste Management Center: Sanitary Landfill. The City Of Edmonton. 8 May 2001.
Corson, Walter H. The Global Ecology Handbook: What You Can Do About the Environmental Crisis. Boston: Beacon Press, 1990.
Denison, Richard A. and John Ruston. Recycling and Incineration: Evaluating the Choices. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1990.
Gerving, Josh. Treatment, Storage and Disposal Requirements. North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation. 8 May 2001.
Hall, Eleanor J. Garbage. San Diego: Lucent Books, 1997.
Wackett, Larry P. and Lynda Ellis. “Bioremediation.” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000. 2000
Webster, Merrian. Sanitary Landfills. Merriam-Webster Incorporated. 9 May 2001.
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