There may be a worldwide shift to reduce the volume of waste produced and to keep this waste out of landfills, but these facilities are still a necessary waste management tool for the time being. Municipal and private landfills will still be needed for the next couple of decades, which means that new ones will still need to be developed.
Most municipalities in South Africa are finding it harder to identify suitable land space for the development of these landfills. The land needs to be stable with good drainage and a variety of factors need to be considered, such as social impact, health and safety, economic feasibility and environmental sensitivity.
Planning landfills for sustainability
The capacity of the landfill will be determined by the areas it services – highly populous areas such as cities and metropolitan regions will need large landfills. Municipalities also need to consider the future growth and expansion of these areas. New landfills need to be far enough away to remain non-invasive, but near enough that transport costs are kept to a minimum.
The design and planning of new landfills are highly important to ensure sustainability and responsible management. The future needs to be considered carefully as landfills are semi-permanent facilities – they are hard to move when a city expands beyond its current boundaries. This planning phase needs to be rigorous and considerate of future requirements, including closure and land rehabilitation.
Landfills need regular monitoring
The best way to ensure that landfills are stainable is to monitor them regularly. Tests need to be conducted to establish the levels of leachate, gas release and odour to ensure that these factors are always kept below the acceptable standards. Regular health and safety inspections of landfill sites will also keep working conditions suitable for employees.
Groundwater and river systems nearby landfills also need to be monitored often. Water samples need to be taken and tested for chemicals, bacteria and microplastic particles. If groundwater is contaminated, it can have dire effects on surrounding communities. Managing sustainable landfills also means looking after natural resources in nearby areas.
Inspectors will also check that the types of waste accepted at the facility are compatible with the landfill classification and certifications. This monitoring and inspection ensure that landfills are used as intended. It also helps when it comes time to close a landfill and rehabilitate the land – toxic leachates and latent risks that are minimised during operation will prevent bigger problems after closure.
While many South African businesses and communities aim for zero-waste-to-landfill, these waste management facilities are a vital part of modern societies. As new landfills are planned and developed to stricter standards, waste management providers and municipalities are developing more sustainable facilities. If environmental protection and the health of the population are properly considered during planning, landfills can be safe for years to come.
Averda is a leading waste management provider with over 50 years of experience across three continents. Through growth, transformation and engagement, we strive to find new ways of managing waste while protecting the community and environment.
By pairing international expertise with local insights, we have secured our position as one of South Africa’s most respected providers of waste management and industrial cleaning services. We also operate in the recycling, pipe inspection, CCTV, infrastructure inspection, hydro-demolition, high-pressure water jetting and catalyst handling industries.
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