170  Landfill

This section does not contain listings; for full information on suitably licensed sites in your area contact your local Environment Agency office as details can change quickly and any list could soon be out of date.

A landfill is simply a location where waste is deposited, which is usually lined with clay or plastic, at which each day a new deposit of waste is put and covered with a layer of earth or rubble to keep out birds and vermin.

Not all landfills provide the same level of environmental protection, so they are carefully licensed (or in some cases exempted) to ensure that only waste of the right type is placed in them and that it is treated in the right way. The Duty of Care on waste (see section 500) places a responsibility on all companies to ensure that their waste is disposed of without causing pollution. It is worthwhile contacting the waste company you employ, (or even, if you have suspicions, following their vehicles once in a while) to ensure that the waste IS going where you are paying for it to go and also telephoning the Agency to check the site is properly licensed for that type of waste.

Legal controls on landfills
Landfills cannot be set up without planning permission. This involves consultation with the local community and the Environment Agency, and (for larger sites) preparation of an Environmental Statement by the applicant. Disposal of waste to land is regulated under part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Site licences now require that after completion the licence holder retains responsibility until a Certificate of Completion has been issued. The certificate is only issued when the site no longer poses an environmental threat.

Landfill sites released 20% of the UK's methane emissions in 2002
Source  www.recyclenowpartners.org.uk 

Whilst there are careful controls, landfills have the potential to pollute groundwater or generate harmful gases. Their problems include: potential for polluting groundwater and surface water, emission of landfill gas which contributes to global warming and has explosive qualities, and damage to the ozone layer from the methane produced. Existing licensed landfills are very carefully regulated and careful monitoring is carried out to determine trends in gas production or leachate behaviour which would enable proactive measures to be taken to protect the environment. Sites are very carefully engineered and lined to protect groundwater and ensure that gases produced are ducted harmlessly away. (Often there is energy production from these gases on the sites.)

The EU Landfill Directive is in place, and adds further requirements -

Landfill has always been cheap, but the London and South East Regional Planning Conference estimated in 1995 that available landfill capacity for wastes would run out before 2010. This is partly because of a downturn in the building trade (so less gravel is needed and fewer holes are dug), and partly because it is difficult and expensive for would-be operators to get planning permission and licences. The result is that waste is travelling farther and in some areas there is "landraising" - this is the building up of the wastes above existing contour lines. This has many practical (if not aesthetic) benefits: the site and cell layouts can be purpose designed and engineering is simpler, migration of gas and leachate is much less of a problem and remedial action, should there be any leakage, is quick, effective and much cheaper than with conventional landfill.

Further change to the economics of landfill disposal came when landfill tax was introduced in 1996, initially at 2 per tonne for inert materials and 7 per tonne for other categories. It was hoped that this would help to reduce landfill disposal, but apart from a slight increase in incidents of flytipping, results during the first 3 years have been disappointing (municipal waste tonnages have continued to increase despite a large increase in disposal costs). From April 1999 the 7 rate was increased to 10, and annual increases of 1 will bring the rate to 15 by 2004. The government's Landfill Tax Credit Scheme provides funding for environmental bodies, who receive money for projects from landfill operators (see ENTRUST).

Also see:
Miscellaneous support services (290)
Energy use and climate change (450)
Legal aspects of waste
Central government (610)

Environment Agency
Tel 08708 506 506  Incident hotline 0800 807060  Floodline 0845 988 1188
Head Office Tel 01454 62440  Fax 01454 624409
Rio House, Waterside Drive, Aztec West, Almondsbury, BRISTOL BS12 4UD
Website www.environment-agency.gov.uk

Leading public and regulatory body with 800m budget, over half spent on flood defence.  Formed 1996 by amalgamating the National Rivers Authority, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution, the former local authority waste regulation authorities, and several smaller government units.  Aims to provide high quality environmental protection and improvement through prevention, education and rigorous enforcement where necessary.  Divided into regions: Anglian | Midlands | North East | North West | South West | Southern | Thames | Wales.  Contact these via website.  Thames Regional Office: Kings Meadow House, Kings Meadow Road, Reading RG1 8DQ, Tel 01734 535000, Fax 01734 500388.  Waste and recycling facts at  www.environment-agency.gov.uk/yourenv/eff/resources_waste/213982/203620/?lang=_e   Also information on: State of the environment; A better quality of life; A greener business world;  Better waters; Cleaner air for everyone; Climate change; Energy; Sustainable use of natural resources; Healthy soils; Landfill; Reducing flood risk; Sustainability; Wildlife.   (Updated Feb 2005)