How to prevent waste

Why is correct waste disposal so important?

There are over 177 million tonnes of waste generated by businesses and households in England every year. Only some of this waste is reused or recycled, and a lot of it is sent to landfill sites, damaging the environment.

Everyone should try to reduce how much waste they produce, thereby decreasing how much rubbish ends up in landfill sites, and limiting the extent of the impact upon the environment.

Landfill sites are designated areas of land used by local councils and industries to compact and bury waste underground. Landfill sites usually have both household and commercial rubbish in them.

Landfill sites are necessary in order that disposal of rubbish which it is not possible to reuse or recycle can take place, but these sites should be considered as a last resort.

There are a variety of reasons we should try to reduce how much waste is sent to landfill sites. One of these is the fact that landfill sites will eventually reach capacity. Those sites which are full are capped with either a clay or plastic liner, then soil and finally grass, and cannot be used again.

An area the size of Warwick is taken up by landfill sites in Britain, according to reports in 2007. It has been suggested in recent studies that we could run out of landfill sites by 2018 if we fail to reduce the rate at which they are used.

It is well known that landfill sites are environmentally hazardous. As it decomposes, biodegradable waste gives off landfill gas, including the damaging ‘greenhouse gases’ methane and carbon dioxide. Methane can be particularly problematic due to its flammability, often causing explosions and fires at landfill sites. At some sites, the gas is burnt off, and others use the gases to generate electricity.

Leachate, a polluting liquid run-off, is also created by landfill sites. This has to be collected and disposed of at wastewater plants. If the leachate gets into rivers and streams, it can cause considerable harm to wildlife.

Once materials have been put in these holes in the ground, they cannot be used again. If reusable waste is sent to landfill, it becomes necessary to obtain new raw materials repeatedly, and then manufacture replacements.

As required by government policy, local councils provide recycling and food waste collections, with the aim of encouraging everyone to sort all of their waste at home, helping to reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfill.

Waste management companies are also helping to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, by sorting rubbish from commercial and residential collections. This waste is sorted into recyclable, combustible (used to generate electricity) and finally, materials that have to go to landfill sites. Consequently, waste going to landfill is being reduced.

Everyone can do their bit to sort and recycle waste at home and at work. This helps to save local authorities money, creating waste streams that are purer. Recycling at source in this way is easier and more cost effective, and as a result offers a better deal for the taxpayer.

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