Most of the household waste that isn't recycled either goes to landfill or is incinerated. There are numerous disadvantages to both methods. Those of landfill include environmental, health and economic costs. Overall, landfill is the least desirable alternative for disposing of waste, although sometimes it is necessary.
Landfill sites obviously require space. Although some types of landfill can be used for other purposes once finished, they still require land while in use and restrict possible future uses of the land. The more land used for landfill, the less available for agriculture, natural habitat and development.
Organic materials, including paper and cardboard, decompose. The conditions of landfill are such that the decomposition releases large quantities of dangerous gases, including methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The gas emissions contribute to air pollution and climate change. They are also a potential health hazard, not to mention being malodorous enough to constitute an ongoing nuisance to nearby communities.
Chemicals can leak into the soil from the accumulation of waste, and may eventually end up in the water supply. Modern methods, such as the use of landfill liners, can mitigate direct soil pollution to a certain extent. However, the risk of pollutants leaching into the soil remains. Although hazardous wastes are supposed to go to purpose-built landfills, be incinerated or recycled, some inevitably ends up with general trash. Batteries contain hazardous chemicals such as lead and often end up with general trash, simply because householders are unaware of proper disposal methods.
Loss of Materials
Most of the materials sent to landfill could be used for something else. Materials such as plastics, paper, metals and glass are recyclable. All organic materials can be composted into a rich soil. Wasting the materials by burying them in landfills means raw materials are continuously consumed, wasting energy and leading to serious habitat destruction.
Impact on Communities
Open landfills are an eyesore and few residents want to live near to an enormous pile of garbage, or even pass one regularly. Landfill sites also attract and support pests such as rats and cockroaches, some of which carry diseases. The associated noise, air and soil pollution impacts humans as well as wildlife.
Landfill sites have associated economic costs, including land, design, transport of waste and maintenance. They have initial and ongoing costs but do not provide any services in return, other than being a place for communities to send their waste.
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