The Growing Concern of Landfills

Landfills are extensive facilities designed to manage and dispose of garbage, and they are also an integral part of environmental protection measures designed to minimize damage from contaminants that could enter the environment from disposal of some products. The geographic location of landfills is important because they must not be placed in areas where environmental harm from pollution is likely. As the world's landfills grow, extensive on-site monitoring systems must also be present to continually check for contamination of both the air and groundwater. Federal regulations require careful monitoring of landfill operations to ensure compliance with environmental laws.

How a Landfill Affects Air and Water Quality

Before people knew about the inherent dangers of garbage as it breaks down, landfills were often areas where household refuse and hazardous chemicals were buried deep beneath the ground. This was actual an improvement over the previous solution for waste disposal: garbage dumps, where trash was left to accumulate in huge piles. Common waste products in the typical landfills of yesteryear included obsolete electronics, automobiles, glass, paper, wood, plastic, furniture, and more. As these items have decomposed, they have released methane gas into the environment, which has had serious ramifications. As this gas enters the air, it begins trapping heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Toxic chemicals from landfills also contaminate the soil and groundwater. As rain falls onto these chemicals, water accumulates dangerous levels of pathogens, ammonia, and toxic metals. This water then seeps into the soil, where it combines with groundwater. Eventually, the water makes its way to rivers and lakes, where it has a negative impact on aquatic animals and vegetation. The soil around a landfill may change over time as chemicals and decaying material infiltrate the surrounding area. These changes will have an impact on overall biodiversity, with native vegetation either changing or discontinuing its growth.

Negative Economic Effects of Landfills

Landfills are generally not popular features in local communities due to the distasteful nature of these facilities. Thus, it's typical for landfills to be located distances away from highly populated areas. This means collection trucks must travel longer distances to reach the landfills, which requires more gasoline to power the trucks. The costs of operating a landfill may be less than the costs of recycling, but recycling items is much more environmentally sound.

Recycle for the Environment and the Economy

Recycling is associated with many important benefits, both environmental and economic. Recycling not only conserves natural resources and helps reduce pollution, but it also helps to enhance economic security. The recycling industry contributes significantly to the job market, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in wages, and billions of dollars in tax revenues that funnel back into local, state, and federal governments. Even after the recycling process concludes, jobs continue to be needed to make new items out of the recycled materials. The employment associated with the recycling industry spans a wide variety of workers, from low-skill to highly skilled employees. Recycling also preserves valuable natural resources that are not in a never-ending supply. Recycling steel not only enables reuse of the metal itself, but it also saves important materials involved in the refining process, such as limestone, coal, and iron ore. Instead of mining and extracting new raw materials from the Earth, recycling helps lessen disturbances of the land and reduces the pollution involved with these processes.