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History of Landfills

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An open dump is described as a land disposal location where the solid wastes are exposed and susceptible to open burning, vectors, scavengers and other elements and thus in a manner that does not protect the environment. Therefore, open dumping is the act of waste disposal at any other site other than designated places permitted by the department of environmental quality (DEQ).

If wastes are dumped anyhow, it means that chemicals and other contaminants that are in the solid waste can seep into the ground and be carried by rainwater to the river and lakes that support an essential wildlife. The river, lakes and the groundwater are our sources of drinking water and therefore the chemicals can have a devastating effect on the people and animals using the water (Open dumping and its effect on our environment).

Describe an Early Landfill and Problems Associated With It

A landfill is a designed structure that is used for disposal of waste materials. Early landfills were put in ‘safe’ places but people did not realize that as the waste rots, it released poisonous chemicals that were washed down onto the river when it rained. The water then became acidic and could dissolve some of chemicals thus becoming acidic producing a contaminated liquid called leachate. Whether lined or not, landfills have bacteria that breaks down organic matter and releasing methane gas which is a greenhouse gas and may be very explosive. Thus the volume of the landfill will reduce as the remaining refuse settles (Hughes, et al.)

When the rain is greater than the rate of water evaporation, the leachate (which is the liquid level) in the land fill will rise. The leachate level on the landfill should be maintained on a low level is to maximize the production of landfill gas during the production of methane gas during a phase called methanogenic phase. During the breakdown of this waste, methane gas is formed from the breakdown of trash and collected by a methane collecting system. 

Describe a Modern Landfill and the Differences As Compared To Early Landfills

Modern landfills are described as highly engineered containment structures that are designed to separate solid wastes from the environment and thus minimize the environmental impact of the trash. While early landfills were just open pit dumps covered with dirt to reduce smell, modern landfills are lined on the bottom with either soil or limestone where the waste is turned into landfill gas. With the new landfill, it is possible to harvest gas and smell has been greatly refused (Hughes, et al.).

The Mariannhill Landfill in South Africa

The Mariannhill landfill will be used as it presents a landfill development in which landfill engineering has been successfully used to merge with daily operations in South Africa’s and indeed Africa’s first landfill site. 

The Durban Solid waste (DSW) manages waste in eThekwini Municipality in South Africa. It was initiated in 2002 and was the first landfill that produced electricity. It was a three phase sanitary landfill project named Mariannhill landfill. It was the first landfill that was incorporated into an ecosystem restoration site. By using recent technological advancements in an approach called ‘closed loop system’ (where output is used as input), Mariannhill is now more than a landfill. This was achieved by creating some key initiatives i.e. landfill conservancy, plant rescue unit, construction of cells and buffer zones, gas to electricity plant and Leachate treatment plant. The landfill has been incorporated into a conservancy and it minimizes biodiversity in its region. The landfill has contributed to poverty reduction, and sustainability as the gas-electric generation has been found to be economically viable (Mariannhill Landfill Conservancy).

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