Watch a Devon specific, child friendly, video explaining the Landfill site process here.
Until recently, all the rubbish (not recycling or food/garden waste) taken from people's homes in Devon went to one of three landfill sites; Heathfield near Kingsteignton (which then closed in January 2016), Broadpath near Uffculme and Deep Moor near Great Torrington.
In the past, rubbish was just tipped into a big hole, but these days landfill sites are very carefully managed to reduce the risk of pollution. They are constructed a bit like a pie: the ‘pastry’ around the outside is made from thick rubber sheeting to keep everything contained, and the ‘filling’ is made from the rubbish inside. When rubbish is unloaded from lorries, vehicles called compacters level out the piles. These can weigh up to 45 tonnes and they drive on top of the rubbish to squash as much of it into the ‘pie’ as possible. This means that all the air is squashed out and the conditions within the rubbish become anaerobic (without oxygen).
There are several issues associated with landfill sites:
Pollution - methane gas: when organic material, such as food and garden waste, rots under anaerobic conditions it produces methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas, which contributes to climate change, so it is important to prevent it from being released into the atmosphere. Instead, it is sucked out of the rubbish using miles of pipes and burnt to create electricity.
Pollution - leachate liquid: leachate is produced when rainwater filters though rotting garden and food waste. If it were to get into watercourses it would have a detrimental effect on wildlife. It is therefore carefully managed, by being collected in large pipes and drained off to special containers where it can be taken to treatment plants.
Waste of resources / time / energy: when rubbish is taken to a landfill site, any resources it contains will be buried and wasted. This may include items that should have been reused or recycled, such as plastic or glass. Not only is the material wasted, so is the time, energy and water used to make the object in the first place. Recycling an aluminium can saves 95% of the energy used to create it from raw resources. Click on the landfill image to the left to enlarge it. Can you see anything that could have been reused or recycled?
Money: Disposing of rubbish costs money. It costs Devon County Council (Devon tax payers) over £110 for every tonne of waste taken to a landfill site and this increases every year. This means in Devon we spend around £40million every year managing waste from our houses and streets.
More landfill site photos
To meet legal requirements, Devon now sends some of its waste to Energy from Waste plants, this process is also known as incineration.