What Goes into Landfill?

landfill pile
percentage of food waste in red landfill binpercentage of food waste in red landfill bin

Wondering what types of materials end up in a landfill? Find out what goes in the landfill and why we need to rethink our current linear economy and move towards a circular economy.

Have you ever wondered what goes in a landfill? Often discussions around the waste collection, including what gets recycled and what goes to landfill, can be confusing.

So why should you care?

Let’s start with some (alarming) stats:

  • Each year, around 7 million tonnes of food waste is thrown away by households (source) and sadly, most of this waste could have been served up, eaten and enjoyed!
  • If we all stopped wasting the food which could have been eaten, it would have the same CO2 impact as taking 1 in 4 cars off UK roads.
  • Landfill gas (LFG) – a byproduct of the decomposition of organic material in landfills – is composed of roughly 50 per cent methane and 50 per cent carbon dioxide (CO2) and a small amount of non-methane organic compounds (source).
  • Of the 26 million tonnes of household waste produced in the UK, 12m tonnes are recycled or composted, and 14m tonnes are sent to landfill sites. This gives us an average recycling rate of 45% (source)
  • It is also estimated that around 37.9 million tonnes of waste are generated by the commercial and industrial industries

In other words, the waste sent to landfills is a combination of organic waste from households, as well as waste from the commercial sector, and from construction sites.

What is a landfill?

impact of organic waste in landfillimpact of organic waste in landfill

Landfills are the final destination for an enormous amount of waste that is not recycled, composted, reused or repurposed. They are designed for the purpose of storing waste – not letting it decompose or ‘break down’.

When waste is stored like this, it has detrimental environmental consequences: organic waste in landfill releases a methane gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide (source).

Waste sent to landfill also produces a substance called leachate – a toxic liquid that can pollute waterways and the natural environment.

But there are viable alternatives to landfill that can help divert waste sent to landfill, and fight climate change.

What are the alternatives to landfills?

Utilising alternatives to landfill means pursuing a circular economy where materials are recycled, reused, and repurposed. Let’s look at what these alternatives are:

recycling iconrecycling icon

Recycling

Recycling is a crucial part of the circular economy. Most commonly, recyclable products are hard plastics, glass, and paper products.

If you’re looking for reasons to recycle, look no further…

  • It takes 70% less energy to recycle paper than it does to make it new from raw materials.
  • As much as 80% of the things we throw away could be recycled.
  • Aluminium cans are easy to recycle. Each can you place in a recycling bin can be back on the shelf within 60 days.
  • If every person in the UK recycled just 10% more paper, we would save approximately 5 million trees each year.

(Source)

With different councils and towns having different rules for recycling, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding correct methods of disposal for certain products. The easiest way to figure this out is to do a quick Google search – most council websites will have a page detailing what products can and can’t be recycled.

 

 

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Composting

Composting

Composting is a proven solution for the collection and diversion of food waste and compostable packaging from landfill. Many of our packaging solutions can be composted at home. Simply drop the packaging in the compost bin with your food scraps and organics. The worms will thank you.

Why compost? Well, that’s easy…

  • The research found that almost 50% of food waste in the average rubbish bin could have been composted.
  • Diverting food waste from landfill enables a circular economy, whereby organic waste can be re-distributed as a nutrient-rich soil improver.
  • You can even home compost in your own garden, increasing soil structure, maintaining moisture and pH levels – your plants and flowers will thank you!

(Source)

By choosing to recycle and compost our waste correctly, more job opportunities are created across the country. If we composted and recycled our waste correctly, every job that would otherwise exist in a landfill would create three jobs in recycling and composting infrastructure.
(source).