How Many Landfills Exist in the UK?

19th Jan 2024

For many years countries around the world have been grappling with the challenge of waste disposal. Statistics and trends paint a concerning picture regarding the use of landfills, which has only shown an upward trajectory. This article will break down what constitutes a landfill, the environmental impacts they have on sustainability and how by reducing our total waste output we can reduce our reliance on them.

What are Landfills?

Landfills are large areas of land designated for the organisation and storage of waste products produced by households, businesses and various industries. Waste is first transported to a site and deposited into compacting machines, squashed down for more effective storage. These are then transported to their waste type’s location on the landfill and left for many years to breakdown.

There are approximately 540 landfills operating as of January 2024 in the UK. Each landfill is specialised for a certain type of waste and ranges in purpose and maximum capacity.

Landfill tax can be a costly financial overhead for businesses who do not sort their waste prior to disposal.

How Much Waste goes to Landfill?

It’s estimated that approximately 220 million tonnes of waste is generated per year in the UK, based off our fullest set of statistics from 2018. Of that, 22.8% is sent to Landfill sites. That’s about 50.6 million tonnes per year.

This is a problem since the majority of that waste is food. When food biodegrades it produces Methane, a greenhouse gas with a damaging effect on the atmosphere worse than Carbon Dioxide. En masse, 11% of global methane emissions originate from Landfills.

Other waste such as plastics and metals are also a problem. They can take hundreds if not thousands of years to breakdown. During this process they create chemical by products which damage natural soil, contaminate water reserves and interfere with animal habitats.

How We can Prevent Landfills

We can reduce the use of landfills by changing the habits of our culture and adopting new approaches to waste management in communities and industries.

By ‘reducing, reusing and recycling’ our materials, we can limit the negative aspects of landfill sites and promote more sustainable lifestyle practices.

Waste Segregation

Waste segregation at source is the first step to minimising the amount of waste sent to landfill. Whether at home or in the workplace, it is important for individuals to take ownership of their waste and ensure that recyclable materials are separated from non-recyclable waste to prevent contamination. In fact, new legislation implemented in Wales in 2024, will mean that it becomes law for all Welsh businesses to separate recyclable material from their general waste.

Use Re-Usable Drinking Containers

In the UK nearly 16 million plastic bottles are being sent to landfill each year. These can take hundreds to thousands of years to breakdown, releasing toxic chemicals and leachate in the process.

Using re-usable drinking containers vastly reduces this impact. Installing water stations in your place of work and purchasing quality drinks containers can also help to lessen the impact. For those businesses with drinks container recycling points, installing a Plastic Bottle Crusher can help to reduce the volume of bottle waste held in bins making it more efficient to store and transport.

Reduce Food Waste

Food waste makes up the largest portion of all waste sent to Landfills. When it breaks down it releases greenhouse gasses like Methane into the atmosphere, contributing to the climate crisis. Excessive levels of food being wasted also contributes to the food insecurity seen in more impoverished regions and countries.

There are numerous methods for cutting down food waste. As consumers we can take greater care when managing our kitchen inventory and controlling our portion sizes. We can store our food in ways that can keep them fresher for longer and cook meals that benefit from older foods. You can also begin composting both at home and in the workplace, eliminating waste ever reaching landfills whilst creating nutrient rich soil for plants in the process.

Using a Baler to Tackle Landfill

By installing a waste baler at your place of work, you can encourage your colleagues to sort waste into individual waste types and give more consideration about what is being placed in bins destined for landfill. This is not only a win for the environment, but also for the individual business as waste sent for landfill is subject to a disposal tax.

Recycling balers work by squashing materials like cardboard, aluminium cans and plastics to reduce their overall volume. Using hydraulic or pneumatic pressure, they compact recyclables into bales that can be tied up, stacked and easily transported to a recycling facility.

How QCR Can Help

QCR has a range of commercial recycling equipment for sale or hire, including: plastic balers, general waste compactors, glass crushers and shredders. These are perfect for both small and large businesses looking for a more sustainable solution to increase the rate of recycling at their workplace and reduce the volume of waste sent to landfill.

QCR can assess your business needs with a free waste audit, before recommending the correct approach on a bespoke level.

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