Landfills 101

Landfills are a tool used to handle the disposal of different types of waste in any industrialized society, and are regulated by the EPA.   The EPA encourages source reduction instead of landfills when handling hazardous waste disposal. Of course, the EPA would prefer you not generate hazardous waste in the first place. Their preference is to reduce waste instead and reduce need for hazardous waste removal and storage in the first place.

However, the reality of industrial societies means that hazardous waste will be generated, hence hazardous waste disposal is still necessary.

Landfill Basics

Landfills are located, designed, operated and monitored to ensure compliance with federal regulations. They are also designed to protect the environment from contaminants, which may be present in the waste stream. (EPA definition)

Landfills cannot be built in environmentally-sensitive areas, and they are placed using on-site environmental monitoring systems. These monitoring systems check for any sign of groundwater contamination and for landfill gas, as well as provide additional safeguards. Today’s landfills must meet stringent design, operation and closure requirements established under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). (EPA)

RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act in 1976.) set the 1st requirements for landfills. Since then, “environmentally sensitive” area requirements have broadened quite a bit. The list of requirements has really cut down on number of potential areas available to accommodate hazardous material. Landfills are regulated sections of the RCRA (subtitle D-solid waste) and Toxic Substances Control Act Subtitle C.

Types of Landfills

There are 3 main categories of landfills: Municipal solid waste landfills, Industrial Waste landfills, and Hazardous waste landfills.

Municipal was created specifically for household waste and other types of nonhazardous waste. Bioreactor landfills are a subcategory of municipal landfills.

  • Bioreactor  landfill: operates to rapidly transform and degrade organic waste

Industrial Landfills: Collects commercial and institutional waste, which often a significant portion of solid waste, even in small cities and suburbs.

  • Construction and Demolition (C&D) Debris Landfill – A type of industrial waste landfill designed exclusively for construction and demolition materials, which consists of the debris generated during the construction, renovation and demolition of buildings, roads and bridges. C&D materials often contain bulky, heavy materials, such as concrete, wood, metals, glass and salvaged building components.
  • Coal Combustion Residual (CCR) landfills – An industrial waste landfill used to manage and dispose of coal combustion residuals.

Hazardous Waste Landfills: landfills used specifically for hazardous waste disposal. These landfills are not used for the disposal of solid waste.

  • Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) landfills: areas specified for PCB. Some PCB decontamination processes require EPA approval, others don’t.

The only two types of landfills that actually handle hazardous waste disposal are hazardous waste landfills and PCB landfills.

If a landfill is required as part of your hazardous waste disposal plant, do your due diligence and confirm that they meet your (and the EPA) requirements for the characteristics of your waste. Checking with an expert is crucial in these matters to ensure compliance avoid potential fines.

For assistance with hazardous waste disposal or management for your organization, please contact HWH Environmental at 1-877-777-6708.