The word \u201clandfill\u201d conjures up images of huge piles of decaying waste that are slowly polluting the earth. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in the U.S. alone there are over 10,000 old municipal landfills as well as 3,091 active landfills. Landfills, which used to be known as \u201cdumps\u201d, are the oldest known form of waste treatment in the world.\r\n\r\n\r\nWhat are Landfills?\r\nLandfills serve the purpose of the disposal of solid waste. Modern landfills are operated, designed, located, and monitored to comply with federal regulations. Due to their nature, landfills cannot be built in areas that are environmentally sensitive and are subject to on-site environmental monitoring systems to constantly keep watch on their impact on the area around them. These monitoring systems check for landfill gases as well as groundwater contamination.\r\n\r\nGenerally, modern landfills are designed to help protect the surrounding environment from harmful byproducts and contaminants that may be present in the waste. Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, all modern landfills must meet minimum standards in terms of operation, design, and closure.\r\nTypes of Landfills\r\nAll landfills in the United States are subject to regulation under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C (hazardous waste) and Subtitle D (solid waste). Some others are subject to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).\r\n\r\nSubtitle C ensures that all hazardous waste is handled in ways that protect both the environment and human health. Subtitle C landfills include:\r\n\r\n \tHazardous waste landfills \u2013 These are not used for the disposal of solids and are solely focused on the disposal of hazardous substances\r\n\r\nSubtitle D focuses on both local and state governments and how they regulate, plan, and manage non-hazardous solid waste. This category of landfills is made up of:\r\n\r\n \tMunicipal solid waste landfills \u2013 These are specifically for household and other types of non-hazardous waste\r\n \tIndustrial waste landfills \u2013 These are, as the name suggests, designed for the disposal of industrial and commercial waste\r\n \tBioreactor landfills \u2013 These degrade and quickly transform organic waste\r\n \tConstruction and Demolition Debris Landfills \u2013 This category of landfill is exclusively for the disposal of construction and demolition waste\r\n \tCoal combustion residual landfills \u2013 This category of landfill is for industrial waste relating to coal ash and coal combustion residuals.\r\n\r\nPolychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) landfills come under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and some decontamination processes require EPA approval.\r\nAre Landfills Harmful to the Environment?\r\nThere are numerous environmental problems caused directly by the existence of landfills \u2013 these can be categorized as hydrological and atmospheric effects. There is also the issue of e-waste leaching dangerous chemicals into the eco-system.\r\n\r\n \tHydrological effects \u2013 With large numbers of people discarding chemical and household cleaners in landfills, there is a real toxicity issue that isn\u2019t likely to go away fast. This impacts upon both people and wildlife, and can have a devastating effect.\r\n\r\n\r\n \tAtmospheric effects \u2013 The EPA has stated that the methane produced by rotting organic matter in landfills is damaging the earth\u2019s climate. Mixtures of harmful chemicals in landfills, such as ammonia and bleach, are also producing highly toxic gases which have a detrimental effect on air quality. Add this to the dust and other contaminants found in landfills, and it\u2019s a recipe for disaster.\r\n\r\nLandfills also have the potential to cause many other significant environmental issues such as fires, due to escaping gases and accumulated waste. These will destroy delicate local habitats, and can pollute the air. There is also the issue of decomposition as inorganic materials such as Styrofoam can take as many as one million years to decompose.\r\nE Waste\r\nThis is a huge contributor to issues with water quality in the vicinity of landfills, and deserves a category of its own. As these chemicals accumulate, rains can then potentially lead them to municipal water supplies.\r\n\r\nWe live in a society which has an increasing reliance on electronic appliances and gadgets. No sooner is one model released then another improved one takes its place.\u00a0E-waste is therefore becoming a toxic ticking time bomb for our planet. In fact, in Australia alone, electronic waste is growing at three times the rate of other waste streams.\r\n\r\nElectronic waste, when disposed of in landfill sites, leaches out dangerous substances such as mercury, cadmium, and lead into the surrounding eco-system. When this reaches humans it can cause cancers, tumors, and even mental health issues.\u00a0For this reason, recycling of electronics is key. This not only reduces the level of toxins in the environment, but it also means less raw materials are mined from the earth each year.\r\nAlternatives to the Landfill (Zero Landfill Concept)\r\nZero waste is a concept that encourages that all products should be reused. Followers of this philosophy do not send any trash to incinerators or to landfills. The Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) definition of the philosophy is:\r\n\r\n"Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.\u201d\r\n\r\nZero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.\u00a0Implementing Zero Waste eliminates discharges to land, water, or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.\u00a0Zero waste is a viable and economical alternative to current traditional waste systems, and is recognized as an environmentally sound way to reduce pollution.\r\nReducing Your Contributions to Landfills\r\nReducing personal contributions to landfills may seem like a difficult task, however there are many workable options.\r\n\r\n \tAim to compost and recycle as much as possible\r\n \tDonate unwanted goods to charity or give them away\r\n \tBuy recyclable products where possible\r\n \tNever buy more than you need\r\n\r\nWith the findings of a recent Yale-led study discovering that American citizens discard twice as much trash as estimates by the federal government had predicted, now is the time for real and lasting change. Recycling and reducing contributions to landfills is something everyone needs to focus on for the health and well-being of the planet.\r\nLink to Us!\r\nIf you found this article useful and shareable, please copy and paste the following into the html code of your website or blog: Learn More About Going Green at the <a href"https:\/\/www.plushbeds.com\/blog\/green\/landfills-consequences-and-solutions\/">PlushBeds Green Living Blog<\/a>.