Newsletter and Technical Publications
<Municipal Solid Waste Management>
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
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.