Landfill erosion is a huge problem worldwide. The elements damage existing landfills and expose long-buried landfill sites, which in turn adds contaminants into the water system. However, there are many ways to protect against landfill erosion, such as geotextiles and landfill liners.
Why Do Landfill Sites Erode?
Landfill sites are subject to erosion in the same way as other outdoor structures. Anything exposed to wind, water, and weather suffers some level of deterioration. Erosion is the degradation of materials, whether natural or synthetic.
How to Protect a Landfill Site from Erosion
Environmental regulations provide strict guidance on landfill sites, and it is a legal requirement to contain and prevent leaching of contaminants into nearby areas. Coastal landfill sites are hazardous, as leaching has been found to cause much more severe damage in saline than in freshwater.
Some of the ways you can protect your landfill from erosion include:
Erosion control blankets
Protect the basin
Protecting the bottom of your landfill basin from erosion helps maintain the integrity of the landfill. You can do this in several ways, such as laying geotextiles or articulated concrete blocks.
Soil (and even most rock) is porous, which means that water will pass through it. Your landfill site may be subject to water seeping through the bottom and eroding the basin. This causes contaminants to leach through and into the surrounding area. Any soluble impurities are then likely to enter the water system.
Protect the side slopes
Slopes erode at a much faster rate than other structures because of fast-moving run-off. Water running down the hill will move soil and compromise the structure. Vegetation is an excellent way to prevent soil erosion.
However, vegetated mats, like erosion control mats, work exceptionally well in preventing slope erosion. You may also want to use silt fencing or fiber logs. However, silt fencing is better as a temporary solution, whereas erosion control blankets and fiber logs help protect your land permanently.
Case Study: Landfill Erosion Along the Thames, UK
In just 40 years, erosion has exposed disused landfill sites across the Thames in London, England. Plastics, microplastics, carcinogenic asbestos, and even toxic batteries hang out of coastal areas, just meters away from the river.
Other sites in the UK suffer the same problem. Once the contaminants from the landfill sites reach the rivers, they end up in human and animal water supplies.
Landfill erosion in the UK provides an excellent example of how vital landfill erosion control is. Fortunately, many options exist to protect your landfill from erosion.
What are Landfill Liners?
Sometimes referred to as geomembranes, landfill liners come in single or double-layer systems to prevent contaminants' leaching into groundwater. They also protect from soil loss and other forms of erosion.
Landfill liners are most commonly used on the side slopes of landfills. However, they can also be useful below the dump or over the top of a disused landfill.
Usually made of plastic polymers and other synthetics, landfill liners function as robust, low-permeable barriers between the landfill and surrounding areas.
How Long Do Landfill Liners Last?
Landfill liners are most often made of sturdy plastics, and as such, will take many years, even decades, to decay.
Many environmentalists consider landfill liners temporary measures, delaying the damage contaminants will cause rather than preventing it.
Is it Dangerous to Live Near a Landfill?
More often found well away from human habitation, landfills could still be dangerous to human health. As garbage decays, it releases gases and other hazardous substances into the air, and potentially, the water system.
A study undertaken by scientists in Italy confirmed that humans might suffer ill effects from living within a 5-kilometer radius of a landfill. Symptoms included respiratory problems and lung disease.
However, around 15 million people live and work in municipal landfill sites. In developing countries, searching for food or goods to sell in landfills is a standard method for earning a living.
Alternatives to Landfill
With much of the world recycling ever-increasing amounts of what would otherwise end up in landfills, there is a reduction in landfill demand. However, humanity is still dumping millions of tons of waste in landfill sites. The USA alone generated nearly 300 million tons of municipal waste in 2018. From this, it is clear that an alternative to landfills is essential.
The alternatives to landfill include:
Waste-to-energy: energy suppliers can turn many landfills into power via melting or burning. However, this releases carbon emissions and contributes to climate change.
Composting: the use of decomposed waste as fertilizer for agriculture.
Recycling: the more we recycle and the more products we re-use, the less waste ends up in landfills.
Anaerobic digestion: microorganisms like bacteria help break down waste.
How to Fix Damage Caused by Erosion
You can mitigate some of the damage erosion causes by applying erosion control products, planting vegetation, or reducing tillage on your soil. However, most erosion damage is irreparable, and structures like boat ramps will require replacing. Landowners should also avoid soil loss as the earth is a non-renewable resource and will not repair itself.
The best way to repair erosion damage is not to let it happen in the first place. With many types of products available, there is sure to be something to suit you.
You can use most erosion control products in several situations, such as:
The best way to prevent erosion is to control water, whether it’s rain, meltwater, rivers, streams, or standing water. However, wind can be just as erosive as water, and any form of precipitation (rain, snow, hail, sleet) is problematic. If you live in an area with more acidic water or experience acid rain, you should expect higher erosion levels, particularly of limestone.
Flood Control and Landfill
Flooding is a significant concern in the landfill industry. If large or fast-moving water flow is not anticipated and adequately managed, the results can be catastrophic.
Some excellent flood control measures exist, such as erosion control matting, sandbags, geotextiles, and articulated concrete blocks (ACBs).
As landfill sites typically have extensive sloped areas, controlling run-off is crucial. Fiber logs or erosion control blankets work excellently on slopes.
Covering most geological products made of textiles, the term geotextiles originated in the 1950s. Geotextiles include:
Erosion control blankets
Some of the most popular materials for geotextiles are coir (coconut fibers) and excelsior (aspen fibers). Geotextiles are known for their biodegradable qualities and their versatility. You can use geotextiles as either temporary or permanent solutions, and they function in almost every erosion control situation.
Erosion control blankets are particularly effective against slope erosion. Since landfill sites must maintain slope stability, an erosion control blanket is the best solution.
Fiber logs also work well on slopes. You’ll need to dig the logs into the hill at equal intervals, then stake them down for added security. Fiber logs become a part of your slope, and they are available in seeded editions.
Articulated concrete blocks (ACBs), often referred to as geogrids, provide excellent erosion protection for drainage basins, streambanks, and pipe or drainage channels. ACBs can be laid on the bottom of reservoirs, rivers, and more, or as part of a drivable surface or ramp.
One of the most customizable erosion control options, ACBs, are made up of interlocking concrete blocks that allow vegetation to grow. You can purchase ACBs in pieces or as rolled mats. They come vegetated or unvegetated. However, using vegetation in conjunction with your erosion control measures offers extra protection against erosion.
Can you Prevent Erosion with Gravel?
Gravel is a useful barrier against erosion, as it slows the water down and allows more liquid to soak into the soil. It is helpful on slopes, shorelines, and more. However, gravel will not provide adequate protection against large volumes of water, and fast-running flow will wash it away. Gravel is best used as part of your erosion control system and not the basis of it.
One benefit of using gravel is the natural appearance. Incorporating vegetation into your gravel barriers increases both erosion control and the naturalness of the appearance. However, many erosion control products blend into your site and offer enhanced protection.
Landfill Erosion Protection with Flexamat
Counting the tied concrete mat and the packaging technology for rolled erosion control mats, amongst its achievements, FlexamatⓇ is an industry expert in erosion control.
Based in Ohio, we ship products globally and source most of our supplies from the US and Canada. We offer full customization services on most of our products and use recycled materials wherever we can. Our friendly team is ready to help you fight landfill erosion.