Various sources say that the average American generates nearly 5lbs of garbage a day! That’s a lot of garbage.
If you’re not currently into recycling then chances are your garbage is going to be in a landfill for a very very long time.
The trip for trash starts in your trash can at home, goes through local waste haulers, sometimes through the county, and a landfill.
Trash put in a landfill will stay there for a very long time. Inside a landfill, there is little oxygen and little moisture. Under these conditions, trash does not break down so fast.
The principal behind modern sanitary landfills is to bury trash in the most contained way possible. Trash is delivered by trucks to what is called the “open cell”. This is the only part of the landfill that has trash visible at the surface.
After being delivered, the trash is driven over by heavy machines called compactors. A lot of materials contain air, and the compactors squeeze out as much air as possible. After the cell is full, it is covered permanently with a layer of material, usually dirt or something similar.
At that point there is a new cell opened until it is filled.
Modern landfills are lined with material to keep contaminants inside the landfill from leaking out. They also have landfill gas collectors to capture most of the methane that the materials inside of the landfill make.
Landfills are not designed to break down trash, merely to bury it.
In fact, when old landfills have been excavated or sampled, 40-year-old newspapers have been found with easily readable print.
When a landfill closes, the site, especially the groundwater, must be monitored and maintained for up to 30 years!