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Newsletter and Technical Publications
<Municipal Solid Waste Management>

Sound Practices
Landfills

6.6 Conclusion

Landfills are part of an integrated system for the management of MSW. When carefully designed and well managed within the context of the local infrastructure and available resources, landfills can provide safe and cost-effective disposal of a city's MSW. Nevertheless, municipal landfills, whether controlled dumps or sanitary landfills, should not be treated as panaceas for deficiencies in the region's overall waste management needs. Landfills are not designed for the routine disposal of industrial or hazardous waste, used oil, or other special wastes. If they are consistently pushed beyond their design limits, landfills, like any other engineered system, will fail. Such failure can have dire consequences for human health and the environment as the landfill then degrades into a potentially toxic open dump.

An integrated MSWM system may prioritize its waste management options according to waste minimization, materials recovery/recycling, composting, incineration, and landfilling. Incineration is only a sound management practice under particular conditions. At present, these generally do not occur in MSWM systems with limited capital and technical resources. All the other components of the integrated approach can improve landfill operations and extend the life of the facility.

Waste minimization or source reduction focuses on reducing the quantity and potential toxicity of MSW destined for the landfill. This means less material to be handled throughout the MSW system with less risk.

Materials recovery and recycling reduces the amount of material to be disposed of and extends the life of the landfill. It also provides the additional benefit of reducing the consumption of raw materials.

Composting diverts organic matter from the landfill. This can reduce gas and leachate risks at the landfill and extend the life of the facility.

It is more cost-effective to perform these operations close to the site of waste generation. This reduces the cost of transporting the materials to the landfill and minimizes the difficulty of separating mixed wastes at the landfill.

Finally, as noted earlier, successful MSWM depends on adequate financing, enabling legislation, and a supporting institutional and policy environment. In many cases this will require changes in the way government institutions currently operate and will necessitate recognition of the importance of effective MSWM for a city's and country's sustainable development.

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