The waste from human consumption practices has exceeded manageable levels. Landfills are the result of failure to create sustainable material options. Recycling habits are still in a progressive stage in many areas of the world. Most people try not to think about the potential hazards of landfills. There are very specific changes to our environment that result from the use of this trash control method.
The preparation for a landfill introduces contamination before waste is even added. The entire site is completely disrupted by massive digging and the removal of valuable soil. The hole is lined with clay and plastic. The goal is to minimize uncontrolled seepage of liquids and gases into the soil and air. Pipes are also strategically placed for future removal of these substances. Preparation practices limit exposure of toxins all at once, yet, environmental health is still compromised.
Once a landfill reaches capacity, it must be sealed and covered. Covering the area allows for plant life to be reintroduced. The trash is covered with more plastic and clay. Groundwater from the surface runs off of the plastic lining. This design keeps additional liquid out and the toxic liquids from escaping. A sealed landfill is necessary to deter wildlife and repel additional moisture.
Methane and Liquids
Decomposition is the only way any of the waste is going to become less of a danger. This action is delayed due the lack of oxygen in the sealed compartment. Items decompose eventually, though very slowly. The process causes the release of methane gas. Dangers of this gas include flammability and the ability to displace oxygen. Buildings near landfills have been known hold dangerous amounts of methane. These closed in areas are susceptible to explosions. Inhabitants may experience low oxygen levels. Extreme depletion could be fatal. This gas is collected through the piping system and distributed in various ways. Sometimes the methane is released into the air in controlled amounts. The gas can also be sold and used for energy.
Liquid waste is removed through underground pipes. Both actions must be done on a regular basis to prevent buildup and leakage. The liquids are treated as wastewater. Removal of contaminants makes the runoff less toxic to the environment.
Ammonia and Hydrogen Sulfide
Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide are also released from landfills. The health complications from exposure are significant. The most common issues involve lung irritation, coughing, nausea, and headache. Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat are also caused from overexposure. The symptoms tend to cease suddenly when victims are no longer exposed to the emissions. The strong smell given off by Ammonia and Hydrogen Sulfide help to determine discrepancies in air quality. Risk is raised, similar to methane, when the gases increase in buildings.
Landfills are an unavoidable reality in a world where disposable products are continuing to be produced. The lack of aggressive recycling programs increase the addition of reusable items that end up in these spaces. Health complications are rising in areas near landfills. Limitations of the release of gases and liquids into the environment is attempted. Unfortunately, these attempts are limited in their success. Pollution and illness are ongoing disadvantages of a wasteful lifestyle.