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About Landfills

What is a Landfill?

A Landfill is a solid waste disposal facility that buries waste beneath layers of soil or other cover materials. Landfills are regulated by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and by state environmental departments. States are also responsible for permitting Landfills. Permitting rules determine a Landfill's design, operations, and allowable waste streams.

Municipal Solid Waste Landfills (MSW Landfills) receive common household refuse and non-hazardous commercial waste. The types of waste commonly associated with curbside collection programs are disposed of in MSW Landfills. MSW Landfills may be privately or publicly owned, but both are highly regulated in order to minimize groundwater contamination, the accumulation of landfill gases, and other negative environmental impacts. A Bio-Reactor Landfill is a specific type of MSW Landfill that is designed to rapidly degrade the organic content in the waste stream.

Modern MSW landfills may have liners installed to minimize infiltration of landfill leachate into the ground and groundwater, while older landfills may be required to install leachate collection systems to pump and treat leachate collected from the landfill. Gas collection systems may also be installed to collect methane and other gases that accumulate in the Landfill. These gases are usually burned off with a flare system, and in some cases this process may be used to generate electricity.

Construction and Demolition (C&D) and Bulky Waste Landfills accept a more limited range of waste materials than MSW Landfills. These Landfills accept debris that results from construction projects and related materials that are considered cleaner than MSW.

Ash Landfills accept the ash that results from the incineration of solid waste. In many communities, Municipal Solid Waste is incinerated at a waste-to-energy plant. The solid waste is used as fuel for generating electricity and the ash residue is buried in an Ash Landfill. Ash Landfills may accept other forms of special waste that are not permitted in other types of Landfills.

Hazardous Waste Landfills are designed and permitted to accept non-liquid hazardous wastes such as PCB-contaminated materials. Numerous design requirements are engineered into Hazardous Waste Landfills, including double leachate collection systems, wind dispersal controls, and leak detection systems.