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Is Plastic Pollution Impacting Landfill Space?

6 min read

A person picking up a plastic bottle on the beach

Have you ever wondered where all the garbage you throw in recycling bins goes? Or what happens to the trash that the garbage truck picks up?

More than three-quarters of non-degradable plastic rubbish end up in landfills or the natural environment. The UK generated 26 million tonnes of waste in 2019. Out of this, only 12 million tonnes are recycled while the rest are transferred to landfills. The bulk of waste gets buried in landfills, with some being repurposed, reclaimed, or burnt.

We all agree that we should attempt to eliminate or at least decrease the amount of garbage we send to landfills as much as possible. Plastic waste sits in the atmosphere for centuries, overpopulates landfills, and eventually ends up in our oceans and shores.

In this post, we take a deep dive into landfills, plastic pollution, and how the two contribute to environmental damage. Keep reading to find out how this works, and you can take steps to turn things around for the better.

What are Landfills?

When people think of landfills, they imagine large, foul-smelling open areas covered with waste and filled with scavenging birds and insects—not to mention the environmental damage and pollution that landfills cause. But the true picture is far from this unappealing exaggeration.

Landfills aren't merely a hollow in the ground or an open dump. They are strategically situated, designed, managed, and monitored to guarantee compliance with legislation. They are also built to safeguard the environment from toxins in the waste stream.

A simple landfill is just a pile of solid rubbish covered with soil or clay. This is critical to limit the number of landfill gases like carbon dioxide and methane escaping into the air. These harmful gases can endanger the planet and all living things if they enter the atmosphere.

How do Landfills Work?

Garbage disposed of in landfills includes both commercial and household waste. Household garbage that is disposed of in landfills mostly contains organic materials such as food, paper, cardboard, and even wood. Other types of household waste include plastic and tin packaging.

Environment-sensitive locations can't house landfills, so they are deployed there through on-site environmental monitoring devices. These monitoring systems detect traces of groundwater pollution or landfill gas.

The environmental and social influences of landfills can't be ignored. Despite being a vital part of society, reducing landfill use and our dependence on them is necessary for minimising their environmental impact.

What is Plastic Pollution?

a person sitting among plastic bags and wrapping

Plastic pollution, often called plastic waste, is the build-up of plastic items (such as plastic utensils, bottles, packaging, etc.) in the environment. Animals and humans alike are vulnerable to the harmful impacts of plastic waste.

Among other things, it refers to the large volume of plastic that does not get recycled and ends up in landfills or at uncontrolled disposal sites. In the UK, more than 5 million tonnes of plastic are consumed each year, yet only one-quarter of it gets recycled.

The rest of the unrecycled waste contaminates waterways throughout the world and harms the ecosystems we are a part of. Many countries have a high concentration of plastic debris in their waters, which poses a threat to marine life.

What Causes Plastic Waste?

While we know how harmful plastic waste is for the planet, not many people realise what causes it in the first place. To address the plastic waste problem, we should first understand its causes.

Plastic is Affordable and Widely Available

Look around you, and you will find that you're surrounded by plastic. Plastic is found in a wide variety of products due to its low cost and long-term durability, such as packaging, bottles, straws, bags, and many more. As long as companies don't start using more ecologically friendly, alternative materials (like bamboo), the plastic waste cycle will continue indefinitely.

fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic

We're Used to Throw-away Culture

How long do you use your plastic items like containers, bottles, and straws? A few hours or, at most, a couple of days? Since plastic products are so inexpensive to make and consume, we often don't think twice before discarding them. And due to the mismanagement of plastic waste, it ends up sitting in landfills for centuries.

Yes, Centuries! Or 400 Years, to Be Specific

It takes more than 400 years for plastic to decompose. Plastic is built to last thanks to the strong chemical connections that make up its structure. Every piece of plastic created, thrown away, or buried in the environment still exists.

Different types of plastic decompose at different rates, although this normally takes anywhere between 50 and 600 years. As new plastic products are produced every day, the cycle continues.

Marine Fishing and Shipping Industries

The marine fishing and shipping industries are equally to blame for adding to plastic pollution and waste, especially in our oceans. Ships and fishing nets are mostly constructed of plastic and are major sources of plastic garbage that wash up on shore.

fish swimming around a plastic spoon in the ocean

How Plastic Pollution Contributes to a Global Crisis

Plastic has been our go-to material since the turn of the past century because of its affordability, versatility, and long-term usability. The plastic waste that is deposited in landfills in the UK is still there — yet we continue to produce and consume more of it.

Eventually, that plastic needs to go somewhere and is typically thrown carelessly on land or into rivers, where it destroys marine life. Our landfills can't keep up with the amount of plastic being created. To secure a healthy and safe future for our planet, we must shift our thoughts and actions towards a plastic-free environment.

Avoiding Landfills: Little Changes that Go a Long Way

There are many benefits to having landfills in our communities, posing major environmental risks. To lessen our dependence on landfills, their environmental effect, and their influence on human health and well-being, we should strive to live a zero-waste lifestyle.

Compost and Recycle

Biodegradable waste cannot break down completely in landfills due to a lack of oxygen. Composting biodegradable materials instead of throwing them away helps keep landfills free of waste. Similarly, recycling makes sure that waste doesn't end up in landfills. Regular recycling will prevent plastic and other pollutants from staying in the biosphere.

Avoid Single-Use Plastics

different types of plastic bottles lined up on a counter

Don't purchase items simply because they are affordable, available, and convenient to use. Single-use plastic products line grocery store shelves all over the world. As a conscious consumer, you can choose to avoid them. Keep away from disposable plastic bottles, Ziploc bags, over-packaged groceries, and other plastic products that won't be used often.

Upcycle Before You Upgrade

Make the most of what you already own to keep waste at a minimum. Before you buy something new, see if you can mend or reuse what you currently have. There are so many DIY projects and upcycling tips on the internet now. Use them to your advantage. Not only will you reduce waste, but you will also give your items a makeover without spending tons of money!

Invest in Long-Lasting Items

Before investing in new appliances, electronics, or apparel, do some research.Find out how long they will last and whether they need to be replaced every few months of usage. It's not always the cheapest option that's the best one. Buying the same thing repeatedly will cost you more in the long term.

Switch to Plastic-Free Alternatives

bamboo cutlery lying next to a hemp shopping bag

Now that you know how harmful plastic waste can be, you must be noticing how big a role it plays in your life. From your toothbrushes to our cutlery, everything is made up of plastic to some extent. Fortunately, there are several plastic-free replacements for everyday items that are eco-friendly, sustainable, and more efficient.

Incorporate organic materials like bamboo into everything use. Choose bamboo cooking utensils for your kitchen. Carry your groceries in a hemp shopping bag. Take bamboo toothbrush travel sets, disposable bamboo cutlery sets, and organic bamboo straws on your travels. There's a bamboo replacement for pretty much everything!

Start Your Zero-Waste Journey Today!

The time to act is now. Take the first step toward a more sustainable future with My Little Panda. The merchant of environmentally friendly goods is acutely aware of and conscientious about its production methods. Their goal is to reduce waste and minimise both their own and their customers' carbon footprints.

You'll find bamboo cutlery sets for children, customisable bamboo cutlery sets, bamboo toothbrush travel sets, and more in their organic and sustainable range! They also sell hemp shopping bags and affordable bamboo utensils in the UK. For more information, visit their website or get in touch with them today.



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