Landfills’ Effects on the Environment

A bulldozer and garbage truck on a landfill waste site

There are over 13,000 landfills across the United States, and every one of them devastates the environment. Unfortunately, many Americans take landfills for granted—in fact, we have more than we need. While some landfills are necessary, there are steps we can take to mitigate the development of more landfills and protect our environment. Keep reading to learn about the dangers of landfills and how we can limit our reliance on them.

The Effects of Landfills on the Environment

Landfill sites have a dramatic impact on our environment. They:

Release Greenhouse Gases

Landfills produce an enormous amount of methane, which is the most potent greenhouse gas. In fact, methane is reported to be 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide at absorbing the sun’s heat. However, methane is the second most harmful greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide because of the colossal amount of CO2 that’s produced every day.

Why are greenhouse gases dangerous? Greenhouse gases trap the earth’s outgoing energy, which forces our atmosphere to retain heat. This excess heat changes the radiative balance of the earth, which is the ratio of absorbed heat to emitted heat.

This balance is tied to thousands of other factors that all affect one another. Its upset affects global weather patterns, which in turn affects ecosystems, which in turn affects animal and plant life. To simplify, earth’s radiative balance is the first link in a very long chain of natural consequences—greenhouse gases put that whole chain in jeopardy.

Produce Smog

While methane is the most significant landfill effect on the environment, landfills produce other hazardous gases that contribute to air pollution. Byproducts of landfills include:

  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Water Vapor
  • Oxygen
  • Nitrogen
  • Hydrogen
  • Non-Methane Organic Compounds

These toxic substances are strong contributors to climate change. They also create smog, which is a dangerous form of air pollution that we’ll describe more later.

Destroy Natural Habitats

The average landfill is 600 acres, and there are thousands of landfills across the United States. When you combine the total of 13,000 landfills with an average size of 600 acres per landfill, that’s millions of acres of land that have been razed.

The United States has over 1,300 endangered or threatened species today that live in precarious ecosystems. Development of a landfill can further threaten species that are already on the brink of extinction.

Pollute Water

A second factor that could lead to species extinction and natural destruction is water pollution. Landfills frequently leak out leachate, which is a toxic chemical that can contaminate nearby water sources. This water pollution can also severely impact society, which we’ll cover next.

The Social Impact of Landfills

While there are landfill effects on the environment, landfills have serious social consequences too. They can:

Endanger Community Health and Safety

Landfills do more than harm the environment. They endanger every person who lives around them. There are numerous studies that highlight the relationships between landfill proximity and personal health. One study done in New York found a 12% increased risk of congenital malformations in children born to families that live within one mile of a landfill. The same study proved that those who live closer to landfills suffer an increased chance of developing medical conditions like:

  • Asthma
  • Diarrhea
  • Cholera
  • Malaria
  • Tuberculosis

For more information on the dangers of living near a landfill, check out this study published by the National Library of Medicine.

Outside of the damage to your health, landfills are unpleasant to live around. They create hazards that impact quality of life, like odor, smoke, bugs, and noise.

Target Minority and Low-Income Individuals

Landfills are much more likely to be constructed in minority and low-income areas. This occurs because these individuals don’t have the resources or time to oppose their placement. Landfill developers exploit these individuals by constructing sites near their homes, which is unethical and immoral.

Truck unloading soil at a landfill site. Global warming. Waste

What You Can Do To Help

Now that you understand the dangers of landfills, we’ll break down a few ways your business can help:

Minimize Waste

Is your business constantly cycling through things like:

  • Aprons
  • Gloves
  • Jackets
  • Safety Vests
  • Sleeves
  • Absorbent Mats

If so, consider a sustainable alternative that isn’t as wasteful. Millions of pounds of good products are tossed into landfills because of surface-level dirt.

Want To Learn More About Reducing Manufacturing Waste?

Find out how green manufacturing and sustainable practices can improve your plant’s operations.


A huge portion of waste that ends up in landfills is actually recyclable. In fact, the EPA estimates that 75% of all waste is recyclable. This means that 267.8 million tons of waste in the U.S. is reusable every year. We currently recycle only 67.2 million tons every year—a quarter of what is possible. Want to be better informed on recycling? Read this EPA resource.

Support the Right Partners

If you want to build a more environmentally sustainable society, you need to work with like-minded partners that can help you achieve that goal. Looking for the right partner to help build sustainable practices and save money? Look no further than Closed Loop Recycling!

We offer unique business recycling options, including a PPE recycling option for any business. Send your worn-down PPE to us and we can restore it to great shape. This service is valuable for any industry that uses PPE because it keeps waste out of the landfill and avoids the cost of replacing PPE. We even offer free trials where we prove that our model works. Contact us today!