What is a landfill?

Resource Recovery

January 10, 2019

Tags: Landfill


Landfills are an essential component of Australia’s waste management system – providing a final disposal solution for waste that cannot be recovered.


What are landfills?


A modern landfill is a highly engineered and regulated pit in the ground that is divided into “cells”. Each cell is carefully engineered to maximise compaction and eliminate potential environmental impacts.

These cells are filled with waste that cannot be recycled including:

  • putrescible waste from municipal collections
  • commercial and industrial waste
  • construction and demolition materials

Certain landfills are licensed for particular waste types, for example not all landfills accept putrescible waste and some are licensed to accept hazardous material like asbestos, while others are not.


How are landfills built?


Cleanaway engineers design cells with six- or seven-layers of lining to protect the environment surrounding the landfill. These layers protect the ground surrounding the cell. Sumps are used to collect liquids that are produced as the waste decomposes. This liquid is called leachate.

The gas produced as the waste breaks down can be collected to generate energy. Here’s how we’re turning landfill gas to power 28,700 homes in Melbourne.


How is odour managed?


The odours produced by landfills are the result of gases produced by decomposing waste. At Cleanaway, we manage landfill odour through a variety of proactive measures, including:

  • Maintaining adequate soil cover at the active landfill cell
  • Daily site inspections, which include the site boundaries and landfill surface to quickly identify and resolve any issues
  • Installing gas wells to turn landfill gas into energy
  • Utilising portable gas monitors to track air quality
  • Shutting down the site when extreme weather appears, such as strong winds


What happens when a landfill reaches capacity?


When a landfill reaches capacity, it is “capped” and rehabilitated, to be turned into green spaces such as parks and community grounds. These will be maintained for up to 30 years after capping.


What are landfill levies?


A landfill levy is a tax applied to the tipping fee to incentivise waste generators to reduce general waste and increase diversion through recycling. Learn more here.


Why are landfills necessary?


Landfill meets a critical infrastructure need – to deal with the residual waste produced by businesses and households. This waste is projected to increase as populations grow and with current consumer behaviours.

Even with improved recycling rates, there is a need for residual waste to be managed safely and effectively.

The planning, approval and call-in process gives local residents and interested parties the opportunity to make submissions in relation to the proposal for a landfill, and operators are required to meet a number of regulatory requirements as part of the process.

Importantly, local residents have every opportunity to learn about the application and how the site will work.


Why is landfill diversion important?


All waste is a resource and every effort should be made to maximise value throughout the product life cycle. Through our network of state-of-the-art facilities like the Perth Material Recovery Facility (MRF), the Cleanaway ResourceCo Waste to Processed Fuel plant in Wetherill Park and the new Erskine Park Transfer Station, our goal is to optimise landfill diversion by recovering more material.

It’s all part of our Footprint 2025 roadmap to ensure that Australia has the right infrastructure in place to support communities in managing their waste.

Contact us to learn more about how we make a sustainable future possible by working hand in hand with communities, government and businesses for resource recovery.