carbon emissions

Landfills impact on Climate Change


Landfills Impact on Climate Change

The impact between the modern-day landfill and climate change may not be clear to the casual observer.  Anyone reading this blog is well-aware man-made carbon dioxide emissions have caused changes to our planet’s climate. Some of the effects include climate change, ocean acidification and increasing sea levels.

Throwing garbage into a landfill does not have the same feel as gas guzzling SUV’s or manufacturing releasing pollutants but their contribution to carbon dioxide is still significant.  In fact, over 15% of methane emissions in the United States came from landfills. The landfills impact on climate change exists because of how landfill works.


What happens to your garbage

Once trash/waste arrives at the landfill for disposal the material is added to the open pit and covered each day with daily cover such as contaminated soil or ground up construction debris. Organic wastes which include food, garden waste, street sweepings, textiles, and wood and paper products form a significant portion of our trash. Yard trimmings and food residuals by themselves constitute 24 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream.

Because of the lack of oxygen, bacteria in the waste produces methane gas, which is highly flammable and dangerous if allowed to collect underground. The gas is also a potent greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming.

The landfill’s contribution of mitigating climate change

A simple solution is if no organics went into landfills then there will nothing to create methane. Zero Waste is defined as reducing or eliminating the production of waste by finding ways to create value streams instead of sending the trash to the landfill or the incinerator. Large scale composting can greatly reduce the amount of organic material decomposing in our landfills. Overall, reducing, reusing, recycling, and rebuying our waste streams are vital to diverting organic materials from landfills and protecting human health and our land, air, and water.