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Do Not Necessarily Dump on Dumps

Essay by   •  January 13, 2013  •  Research Paper  •  1,216 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,442 Views

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Abstract

The following paper will discuss the issues surrounding the disposal of municipal solid waste. It will describe open dumps and detail the environmental concerns they promote. It will then describe and discuss the environmental implications of early landfills. Modern landfills will be discussed and the environmental practices will be described. The paper will finish with a look at the innovations of a modern landfill and how it impacts the local economy.

Keywords: landfill, Municipal Solid Waste, leachate, open dump, decomposition, biogas

Do Not Necessarily Dump on Dumps

Introduction

Every day people throw out unused items. Bottles, old clothes, uneaten food, packing material and even furniture are all thrown out as garbage. This garbage is officially called Municipal Solid Waste. It is tossed out in vast quantities and has to go somewhere.

Open Dumps

Open dumps were a solution to the issue of where to put municipal solid waste. An open dump is an uncovered area that is utilized for disposing municipal waste. They are unsightly dumping grounds with little to no management and upkeep. These sites have very few environmental controls and can put the local environments at risk (Ecomii. 2012).

Contamination of the local environment is the main issue with open dumps. There are several ways that contamination can occur. Water contamination is a risk with open dumps. Chemicals from the waste have the potential to reach the local water supply. This could prove toxic and fatal. There is also a chance of heavy metals leeching into the soil of the dump site. This can cause serious problems for plants and can make the site unusable for anything other than a dump in the future (Waste Management World. 2012).

Waste in open dumps is often burned to make room for additional waste. Some of the items burned release harmful chemicals into the air. Burning also introduces addition carbon dioxide into the air. This can contribute to the greenhouse effect (Waste Management World. 2012).

Early Landfills

Landfills replaced the use of open dumps. A landfill is essentially a large hole in the ground or above it in some instances. Waste is dumped into the landfill and covered with a layer of soil. Early landfills had concrete or clay liners on the bottom. This was intended to keep toxins and chemicals from leaking into the soil.

Water contaminated by waste is called leachate. As the water travel from the top to the bottom of a landfill it collects salts and small waste deposits. This water can contaminate the local water supply and can find its way to rivers, ponds and streams. Early landfills were not properly planned or lined. This resulted in portions of the environment being contaminated.

There were other hazards to early landfills. As waste decomposes, it produces a number of gasses, including methane. About fifty percent of the gasses produced in landfills are methane (Environmental Protection Agency. 2012). Certain levels of methane can be explosive when combined with oxygen and other gasses. This often occurs as methane drifts away from and landfill and can cause serious problems for those living in surrounding areas (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 2001).

Nearly every item thrown away will eventually decompose. Decomposition is the process by which large organic material breaks down into smaller organic materials (Net Industries. 2012). Some items decompose quickly. Other items can take decades to fully decompose. Early landfills had issues with incomplete decomposition. Water and oxygen are often necessary for decomposition to take place. One early landfill was fount to have newspapers from thirty years ago, still readable and whole. This is due to the ground above the waste being packed too tightly. Decomposition returns organic materials to the ground and helps reduce the amount of waste in a landfill.

The final issue

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