LANDFILLS - A growing menace in Indian waste management

We’ve all heard quite a lot about environmental conservation, preserving nature, and techniques to manage waste. But the real question arises if our proven techniques that have worked well in the past could be of worth now, with an extreme rise in consumption and waste production. When it comes to managing waste, one of the most popular methods of disposal is landfills, which are wide areas of land similar to a mining site where solid waste from several nearby areas is dumped. It has remained a popular method of waste disposal since historical times and is still prevalent due to the increase in the quantity of waste generated. They are usually created on barren land and have a major share in the waste management system of the country. In some parts, they’re a part of integrated waste treatment mechanisms whereas, in others, they are open dumping grounds causing the creation of unhygienic spaces and eventually, diseases. 

Landfills provide an easy and cost-effective solution to immense amounts of trash that is accumulated. Although this option may seem suitable in the short run it has horrendous effects on the lives of people in the long run. It houses a number of toxic gasses. One of the most deadly gases it releases is methane, which is one of the most vigorous greenhouse gases and thus a huge contributor to climate change. It is also proven that these gases are rooted in various forms of cancer. Also, landfills are required to have plastic or clay lining by legislative guidelines, these liners, although installed to protect land becomes one of the root causes for its deterioration because at times they tend to have leaks which can result in leachate, a harmful liquid produced by landfill sites, which contaminates nearby water sources and damage ecosystems. In other words, we can credit landfills for destroying natural habitats for wildlife.

Eventually, a day will come, when these landfills are considered full, this shouldn’t be thought of as the beginning of something new but a dreadful curse, because these sites will be forever scarred by the wounds of its past and will be monitored for possible groundwater contamination and release of toxic gasses for up to a period of 30 years.

Is there a solution?

You must be wondering how various harmful effects of landfill waste can be subsided? Is there a way? Yes! There are several well-established techniques available to reliably and consistently treat this waste. Let’s find out more about these,

Treating Greenhouse Gas

New landfills may be constructed with a membrane that is designed to catch methane in liquid form and forestall it from escaping into the air. However, it is still unfeasible to catch 100% of it. There are a variety of treatment processes which can help prevent methane production:

  • Open Window or Tunnel Composting – This uses aerobic digestion so as to decompose organic matter without creating methane gas.

  • In-vessel Composting – This is a kind of aerobic treatment that occurs in a closed container to facilitate the breakdown of waste by microorganisms.

Other processes are available that use anaerobic digestion within a confined space. This enables the methane to be captured and converted into energy.

Treating Toxins

New landfills can be constructed with synthetic membranes to forestall mercury from escaping into soil and groundwater. Instead,  toxins can be circumvented through a group of pipes and discharged into a sewer system, where they can be retained, incinerated, or converted to fertilizer.

Treating Leachate

Various technologies are available to treat landfill leachate in several ways. These include:

  • Biological Treatment – It comprises using many alternative filters to get rid of the nitrogen and other biological compounds from the wastewater.

  • Chemical-Physical Processes – Wet oxidation processes can be used if it’s possible to oxidize organic compounds. This comprises activated carbon adsorption, precipitation, flocculation, and ion exchange processes.