How I make sure none of my waste ends up in landfill

One’s I ask myself how my wastes end up in landfill even if I live in a developed country and I sort my waste between the different the trash can, the recycling bin, ... Worse, I read that some of the waste I through in the recycling bin ends up in landfill. So I had to understand how it’s possible. Thus, I read articles, watch videos, … And now I understand how the system works in France.

Firstly, to understand the process, we need to defined what is an ultimate waste. The law define an ultimate waste as a waste which no longer susceptible to be process under the current technical and economic conjuncture, particularly by the extraction of valuable parts or reduction of pollutants (article L 541–2–1 of the french environmental code). In France, we differentiate 3 types of ultimate waste : dangerous waste, non dangerous waste and inert waste. For instance, our most common waste is packaging and packaging is classed as a non dangerous waste.

What exactly is a non dangerous ultimate waste ?

Our domestic waste are some of them, recyclable waste which are reject during the sort process (those which are consider non recyclable by the sorting plant) are also consider as non dangerous ultimate waste. Warning, some companies can be misleading at this point, often they claimed to recycle 100% of the product of the plant. This is true, however, not all of the collected waste which enter the plant finish as a product, there are some losses, those losses are the ultimate waste from the recyclable waste. For instance, the plant of Romainville near Paris operated by Syctom have a recycling rate of 80.2 %, which mean that for every 100 kg of recyclable waste entering the plant, 80,2 kg will be sold to be recycle and 19.8 kg end up as non dangerous ultimate waste [1].

The landfill in developed countries

Now, we know what is an ultimate waste, we will see what does a authorized landfill look like. Actually, landfill has a bad connotation, so the official name is “non dangerous waste storage facility” or in french “installation de stockage de déchets non dangereux (ISDND)”. Now I will use the term “storage facility” to describe a non dangerous waste storage facility.

Fortunately, at least in France, there are rules, thus, the storage facilities do not look like that :

Picture of a beach filled with waste (plastic bags, cart boards, …).
Photo by Antoine GIRET on Unsplash

But rather, they look like that :

Picture taken from the sky of what look like a construction site in the middle of a forest
Storage facility of Lapouyade (France)

To make it simple, it could also be called burying center. Because, in reality, they dig a really big hole than they put a thick plastic cover. Than they store all the non dangerous ultimate waste. Once the hole is filled up, they cover the hole with earth and they plant some trees. That how the waste vanished ! Actually, they do not vanished because they put pipe in the hole to collect the methane produce by some waste. So at the surface, we can see pipes coming from the ground. For instance, in France there are around 250 storage facilities.

Of course this is not the only way to process non dangerous ultimate waste, they can be processed in incineration facilities which reuse or not the heat produced by the combustion. And there are probably other innovated way to process those waste which I ignore !

What could I make to avoid sending my waste in landfills ?

The best way to be sure that none of our waste end up in landfill is has simple having no waste. Say like that it could appear weird and wacky but, actually, it’s not that hard to have not any waste. If you cook on a regular basic (if you do not, you should ;) ) a large part of our waste are organic waste which can be composted. The other are mainly packaging, and packaging can be avoid by buying stuff in bulk store. Nowadays, bulk store are everywhere ! Obviously, the concept does not have any meaning if we do not reuse our containers. a container does not have to be fancy, a simple paper bag can be reuse multiple time. Another tips, is to buy stuff from local corner shops because we can easily ask to put the stuff in our container.

Furthermore, I think although, going in the street to demonstrate and signing petition are important, there have to be consider after having tried to implement the actions mentioned in the previous paragraph. Because, even if companies play a role in the issue, we can act now by buying stuff whit less packaging. So, to me, it would be egoist to blame others and on his side do not do anything. In the case of food packaging we have alternative to mainstream companies who destroy the environment with unnecessary packaging. It is not the case in every domain, so let’s take that chance and let’s get into the adventure of zero-waste !





Engineering student who is very concerned about his role in climate change.

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A Meyer

A Meyer

Engineering student who is very concerned about his role in climate change.

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