Landfills: Legal, Illegal, Solid Waste, Hazardous Waste .
Community refuse disposal areas are nearly as old as public waste management itself. The first municipal waste site in Western Civilization is believed to have been established around 500 B.C. in Athens, Greece. The Council of Athens issued an order prohibiting the dumping of garbage within one mile of the city wall. .
American landfills were preceded by disposal areas similar to those of ancient Greece. No efforts were made to compact or cover trash at these unregulated town dumps. Over the years, these illegal dumps have been replaced with sanitary landfills which are sophisticated in design and regulated in every aspect. Landfills are the most widely used solid waste management option. "In 1995, there were approximately 2,500 landfills in America into which we put approximately 57 percent of our municipal solid waste" (1). .
A legal landfill is a carefully engineered depression in the ground into which wastes are put. The aim is to avoid any connection between the wastes and the surrounding environment, particularly groundwater. Basically, a landfill is a bathtub in the ground; a double-lined landfill is one bathtub inside another. Landfills are constructed with a number of safeguards, and new federal standards require landfills to have liners, leachate collection systems, and gas monitoring systems. Today landfills are divided into smaller units called cells. Only one cell is open at a time and it is covered nightly. Nightly covers help to reduce odor and pest problems. .
WHAT DO WE PUT IN LANDFILLS.
"Although different studies have produced different findings, most data suggests that about 40 percent of materials entering landfills are paper products, 20 percent yard waste, 9 percent metals, 9 percent food, 8 percent glass, and 7 percent plastic" (1). As organic wastes decompose they generate gases including methane which is a greenhouse gas.