Every one of us creates a certain amount of waste every single day. Whether it’s leftovers being thrown in the bin after dinner or business waste being chucked out in the big office clean, there are waste streams deriving from nearly every facet of our lives. While new and improved ways of dealing with this rubbish, along with our push for increased recycling, has had an impact, the second largest waste disposal option in the UK is still found at the landfill.

With 24.4% of our rubbish ending up in these ugly and extremely problematic sites, it remains a genuine concern both to the environment and to human health. However, the issue with landfills spreads much further than you may realise and even creates problems outside of our borders.

Tackling the landfill issue is essential if the UK is to become a greener country overall and understanding how landfill sites operate and the problems they create is a great start. As a waste management company with a stringent Zero to Landfill policy, we at Brewsters understand the importance of minimising our reliance on landfill sites.

With this in mind, we decided to take a closer look at this pressing issue and better understand the various ways we can seek to end it.

The environmental impact

Aside from the fact that landfills aren’t particularly nice to look at, they also wreak havoc on the surrounding environment in a variety of different ways. All materials, no matter how durable they are, will degrade or decompose over time and this is where much of the issues stem from with landfills.

Air pollution

Around two-thirds of all landfill waste contains some form of organic matter. This can come from households, businesses and the industrial sector and is usually made up of wasted foodstuffs. By its very nature, organic material biodegrades through a process known as anaerobic digestion.

Carried out by microorganisms breaking down organic matter in the absence of oxygen, this process creates excess methane, which is one of the most potent greenhouse gasses. As most landfill waste is compacted and thus starved of oxygen, sites become net contributors to emissions which exacerbates global warming.

This degradation can also lead to a reduction in overall air quality. This, along with exhaust fumes and pollutants from industry is causing a hazardous effect to both local wildlife and our own health.


Many other materials that end up in our landfills contain a host of toxic substances that can cause significant damage to the surrounding environment. Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, is an increasingly pressing issue, as many electronic products, from phones to televisions, contain toxins which leach into the surrounding soil and groundwater.

Acids, arsenic and mercury can all find their ways into the ground, degrading soil quality and killing plants and animals. Much of these toxins also end up seeping into our waterways, which has decimated fish numbers.

This unprecedented damage to the local environment can cause a mass culling of flora and fauna. According to the Romanian Ministry of Environment and Forests, landfill sites contribute to the loss of between 30-300 species per hectare, only highlighting how devastating these gargantuan piles of rubbish can be.


Similar to the toxins, leachate poses a genuine risk to the surrounding area. Referring to the liquid created when water runs through waste, leachate can contain a huge array of damaging substances and can be just as devastating as other toxins. Due to its liquid nature, leachate can also span much further, causing even more damage.

The human impact

While the above points have serious environmental impacts, landfills also cause misery to communities at home and abroad. Although we’ve relied on landfill sites for our waste management for decades, these dumping sites have the ability to create disaster at both a personal and communal level.

Health risks

With all of the toxins and pollutants that are released from landfill sites, it’s not only the local wildlife that is affected. According to a recent study conducted on nearly 250,000 people residing within a three mile radius of a landfill site, living in the vicinity of a dump increases your risk of lung cancer and breathing problems, primarily due to the noxious gases emitted.

Landfills abroad

Sadly, as a country that creates a huge amount of rubbish each year, it can be difficult keeping on top of waste management requirements. The UK is a net contributor to the global waste stream due to the simple fact that we create more rubbish than we could possibly repurpose. Because of this mounting issue, it’s recently come to light that much of our rubbish has ended up in landfill sites around the world and more specifically in developing nations.

The district of Agbogbloshie, near the Ghana’s capital city of Accra, has gained an infamous reputation as one of the largest e-waste dumping sites in the world. This waste dumping has destroyed the local community who now risk their health mining precious metals from discarded electronics.

Landfill sites like this can be found throughout the globe, from Indonesia to Bangladesh. The main link between these sites, however, is that a significant amount of the rubbish comes from western countries like the UK.

Community impact

Back at home, landfills can cause grief for local communities who live in close proximity to them. With large amounts of decaying rubbish comes a host of vermin, such as rats and flies, which can spread out into the neighbourhood. There is also the issue of the horrid smells these landfill sites can produce.

These problems can make living in the area pretty miserable, however, it can also have effects on factors such as house prices.

How we can solve the landfill problem

Although the landfill issue may seem like an unwinnable battle, you may be relieved to hear that there has been a conscious and determined effort to both minimise our reliance on them and to turn negatives into positives.

For example, thanks to regulations in landfill sites, their operations are tightly controlled, ensuring that recycling targets are met and that rubbish is dealt with effectively. Sites are even making the most of the excess methane produced by capturing it and converting it into a renewable energy source.

Recycling centres are also improving their operations, investing in new technologies to ensure that even less rubbish ends up in landfills. For example, the US designed AI, known as Max, is making sorting plastics much faster than the average person, meaning more waste is reused.

On a local level, it’s now becoming easier than ever to recycle our rubbish. Communities have banded together to ensure that rubbish is properly recycled and councils have been pushing for new regulations on waste disposal. This has led to a surge in the amount of rubbish we recycle, peaking at 45.7% of all household waste.

All of the above has helped to reduce our reliance on landfills and while changing our habits and, in turn, changing the world is going to be an uphill battle, it’s all for the greater good.

Help reduce your reliance on landfills with Brewsters

Reducing landfill use is just one fight in the battle against waste, and as waste management experts, you can be sure that we understand its importance. With over 60 years in the industry, the team at Brewsters has helped countless clients with their waste management needs, from skip hires to trade waste collection.

What makes us such a popular choice among our London customers is our proud commitment to our Zero to Landfill policy. With our state of the art facility, we aim to ensure our collected waste is put to some form of beneficial use, rather than letting it sit in a dumping ground.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help with your waste management requirements, visit our website or get in touch with our team on 020 7474 3535.