How Landfills are Affecting Our Planet

Humans throw out incredible amounts of waste every day. Even when efforts are made to recycle, it seems impossible to avoid filling the trash bin daily. Excessive packaging and disposable products add immensely to the issue. Many neighborhoods have not committed to recycle efforts, leaving the responsibility to individuals. Many people do not know where to go, or find it to be too much trouble to gather items and transport them to a recycle station. All of this results in a constant supply of waste that becomes a part of landfills. The accumulation of garbage in landfills is having some hazardous effects on our planet.


Landfills are lined with plastic prior to dumping trash in them. The idea is to seal them off as much as possible, and direct fluids and gas out in a controlled manner. Landfills, however, are not closed up until they are full. This leaves a large amount of decaying organic matter exposed. Organic matter releases methane as it decomposes. Large amounts of decomposing material in one location can release an overwhelming amount of methane gas in to one area, making the air unsafe for surrounding homes and businesses.

This greenhouse gas contributes to the heat of our atmosphere by trapping in heat. The amount of heat is about 20 times more than when carbon dioxide is considered. The UK has made efforts to make electricity out of the resulting methane, decreasing the negative effects. Carbon dioxide is still released as a bi-product of this method, however, it is less damaging.


Wildlife also changes when a landfill site is initiated. Animals are often attracted to areas depending on food availability. Waste attracts more unwanted pests to the area. An increase in rodents and scavenging birds can be seen near many landfills.


As decomposition continues in the landfill, many liquids begin to accumulate at the bottom of the site. This organic material is mixing with a variety of other waste products, resulting in an unsavory mix of pathogens, toxic metals, and ammonia. The lining of the landfill is meant to limit the seepage of this material into the groundwater. This, however, is not always the case.  Areas that are local to landfill constructions should be extremely careful about their water source. Groundwater contamination can cause complications with wildlife that may rely on the water, and the health of the soil.

Groundwater can undergo a process that causes it to de-oxygenate. This is because oxygen is needed to assist in the decomposition process. This groundwater then continues on to larger water sources, such as lakes and rivers. Living beings in the water, such as fish can quickly be destroyed in large numbers. The changes in soil causes toxins to be available to wildlife and also causes complications with vegetation in the area. Plant life can completely change due to the addition of a landfill site. Existing plants life, including trees, may die or be changed in some ways. New plant life is often unable to grow due to toxins in the soil.

Human Health

Many people may not have the choice to move when landfill construction is proposed in their area. Long-term health problems can occur due to the toxic air, water, and soil. Birth defects in babies whose mothers reside in the area are one possibility. Cancer and respiratory problems are also prevalent. Gases from landfills can seep into nearby buildings. A buildup can occur when it becomes trapped in the buildings. This causes unsafe levels of toxic gases in indoor areas, affecting the health of residents and employees. Basements and tunnels are the most susceptible to this issue, however, and any part of a building can be a problem.

Short-term health issues to the various gases released from landfills include eye irritation, coughing, and headaches. Breathing complications and nausea can also be present. When the person is removed from the area for a sufficient amount of time, these issues usually go away. Exposure over longer periods of time to hydrogen sulfide can cause chest pains, weight loss, and trouble sleeping. Some people have reported problems with asthma, lung irritation, and nasal congestion.

Methane and carbon dioxide health issues happen due to the lack of oxygen when these gases are present. The gases themselves are not directly related to negative effects. The lack of oxygen that occurs with their presence is the culprit. Lack of oxygen can result in a fast heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and lack of coordination. These symptoms can take over quickly and cause severe issues. Nausea, vomiting, and fatigue may precede unconsciousness.

Landfills are a necessity due to the overwhelming supply of trash that results from daily activities. With convenience products and population increase, our planet seems to be on a downhill spiral when it comes to health of the environment. Continuation in the manner is sure to cause more complications to the entire ecosystem.

Editor's Picks

As her name suggests, Jenna Small stands little over 4ft tall. Being petite and blonde, many often underestimate her talent. As a result, she spent her entire life working twice as hard to prove that she was the best. Now an established geologist, she does not beat around the bush when it comes to her work. Her research has been published and used in schools throughout the region. She often states that her most significant accomplishment was choosing to better herself through a solid education. When she is not busy unearthing new findings, she volunteers as a motivational speaker to girls who have been victims of bullying, discrimination, or harassment.

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