Landfills are NOT Giant Compost Piles

I’m not going to lie, there was a time when I really did think that a landfill was a giant compost heap.

I would accompany my Dad to the local rubbish tip where bags of rubbish were piled high, circled by seagulls who swooped and landed on broken chair legs, pecking at the food scraps escaping from the sides of open black rubbish sacks.

My thought process was that it would just sit here and decompose like one giant compost, somehow magically turning the chip packets back into earth. I thought it would be all fine and that would be the end of that.

But it is not. It is far from reality.

Landfill is just that. It fills the land.

Take a close look at the piece of newspaper. This sat in the Elliot Street landfill in Papakura for 32 years. It did not break down during that time. The words can still be read.

That piece of newspaper just sat there, in amongst all the other rubbish, counting down the years till it came out again, looking like it just sat on a sun drenched window sill in the spare room for three weeks.  Like the majority of landfills across the country, the Elliot Street landfill preserves our items in the land, because with no oxygen, it does not break down easily.

A problem also occurs when things finally do break down in an anaerobic environment too; this process produces methane and carbon dioxide, both of which are greenhouse gases. These gasses trap heat in the atmosphere, slowly warming the earth. In the process the items breaking down can also contaminate land, ground water and water ways through leachate.

One way that you and your family can make a positive change is to reduce the amount of waste that you send to landfill, especially items that can be recycled or composted.

Using a keep cup, taking a reusable bag to the store, replacing things with more sustainable choices when they come to the end of their life are all simple changes to make that can significantly reduce the amount of waste that goes into your red bin (and to landfill).

A good way to make the change is to look at your outgoing landfill waste. Is there anything in there that can be reused, recycled or composted? Take note of what is going out and see if you can make one change every month. Over the course of a year that is 12 ‘small’ product choice changes, which can create a big change to the total waste you send to landfill.

If one per month seems too daunting, then how about trying one per season? Four changes per year can, and will, make a positive impact. This Spring why don’t you and your family try to change one thing? That’s where it all begins.