5 Disadvantages of Landfilling

Disadvantages of landfilling are; environmental pollution, greenhouse emission, fire hazard risk, habitat destruction, and economic decline.

This article discusses the disadvantages of landfilling, as follows;



1). Environmental Pollution (as one of the Disadvantages of Landfilling)

Landfilling contributes to pollution of the environment by releasing toxins and other materials as waste decomposes.

Organic waste in landfills undergo biodegradation, producing a carbonaceous fluid called leachate, as well as nitrogenous and sulfuric gases [1]. These byproducts can impact soil, water and air quality in a negative manner.

Environmental degradation by landfilling is a problem due to the scale of most landfills, their proximity to residential areas and natural ecosystems, and due to the fact that it contradicts the purpose of landfilling; which is to effectively manage waste and prevent degradation of the environment.

Domestic water supply may be polluted when leachate from landfills infiltrate the soil and enter into groundwater reserves [4].

Odors produced by decomposing materials in landfills can also pollute the environment.

In some cases, hazardous materials like E-waste in landfills, can release harmful toxins into soil and water.

The environmental impacts of landfilling can be mitigated by following recommended guidelines and implementing sustainable measures; such as the use of liners to reduce exposure of the soil to landfill waste, and the use of collection equipment to isolate and treat byproducts.

Disadvantages of Landfilling: Environmental Pollution (Credit: Ashley Felton 2006)
Disadvantages of Landfilling: Environmental Pollution (Credit: Ashley Felton 2006)


2). Greenhouse Emission

Landfilling accounts for several millions of tons of greenhouse emissions per year in the United States alone [5]. These gases are usually released as byproducts of the decomposition of organic waste materials.

Methane is a common example of a greenhouse gas that is released from landfills in large quantity. This gas is highly-potent, and contributes significantly to environmental problems like global warming and climate change.

The greenhouse emission potential of landfilling implies that it is not recommendable where sustainability is a concern.


3). Fire Hazard Risk (as one of the Disadvantages of Landfilling)

Landfill fires are possible where large amounts of flammable methane or biogas have accumulated within a landfill [2].

Such gases can be ignited spontaneously, especially as a result of high temperature and pressure conditions, which are usually established as a result of microbial activities and waste decomposition.

Landfill fire hazards can be life-threatening to people around the landfill. They may also escalate or spread, and increase in severity, causing major socioeconomic losses.

Byproducts of waste combustion during such events; such as particulate matter, can also cause air pollution, which has negative effects on human health.

Disadvantages of Landfilling: Fire Hazard Risk (Credit: Alex Proimos 2012 .CC BY 2.0.)
Disadvantages of Landfilling: Fire Hazard Risk (Credit: Alex Proimos 2012 .CC BY 2.0.)


4). Habitat Destruction (as one of the Disadvantages of Landfilling)

Landfilling can lead to the destruction of habitats in various ways.

One of these ways is through degradation.

Leachate and other materials from landfills can be transported by runoff or other mechanisms, into aquatic ecosystems, causing pollution and affecting the survival of aquatic organisms in a negative manner [3].

Landfilling can also lead to soil pollution, whereby the physicochemical attributes of the soil are altered, causing it to cease to be a suitable habitat for soil organisms.

Native species in the environs can also be displaced by invasive species that are attracted to landfills; such as rodents and some herbivores. These invasive organisms can destroy existing habitats by their activities, and could make it impossible for native species to thrive.

These events can all lead to biodiversity reduction, which is not good for the sustainability of the environment.


5). Economic Decline (as one of the Disadvantages of Landfilling)

One of the advantages of landfilling is based on its role as a cost-effective solution to waste problems.

While this is true under certain circumstances, landfilling can also have negative impacts on the local economy.

One of the reasons behind this is degradation of the environment. Improperly managed landfill sites can be a source of aesthetic, soil, air and water pollution, all of which can reduce the value of property and economic activities within the environs.

An unsustainable approach to landfilling can also cause the loss of materials that could be conserved through alternative practices like recycling. Large-scale and continuous loss of such recyclable materials can contribute to resource depletion, which is a major economic problem.

Lastly, landfilling can cause economic losses through its effects on human health, that could decrease the quality and availability of labor, and can raise healthcare expenditure which could otherwise be invested into projects that benefit the economy.



Disadvantages of landfilling are;

1. Environmental Pollution

2. Greenhouse Emission

3. Fire Hazard Risk

4. Habitat Destruction

5. Economic Decline



1). Danthurebandara, M.; Passel, S. V.; Nelen, D.; Tielemans, Y.; Acker, K. V. (2013). “Environmental and socio-economic impacts of landfills.” Economics. Available at: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Environmental-and-socio-economic-impacts-of-Danthurebandara-Passel/1c1a7908514cec4ef5a82a147f51637fc588d6d1. (Accessed 8 November 2022).

2). Milošević, L.; Djordjevic, A.; Protic, M.; Ristić, D. (2017). “Identification of Fire Hazards Due to Landfill Gas Generation and Emission.” Polish Journal of Environmental Studies 27(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.15244/pjoes/75160. (Accessed 8 November 2022).

3). Mukherjee, S.; Mukhopadhyay, S.; Hashim, M. A.; Bhaskar, G. (2015). “Contemporary Environmental Issues of Landfill Leachate: Assessment and Remedies.” Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology 45(5):472-590. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10643389.2013.876524. (Accessed 8 November 2022).

4). Oyiboka, I. E. (2014). “Effects of landfill sites on groundwater quality in Igando, Alimosho Localgovernment Area, Lagos state.” Environmental Science. Available at: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Effects-of-landfill-sites-on-groundwater-quality-in-Oyiboka/d242429d8e63797db5ddb4e5155afad0274bbb92. (Accessed 8 November 2022).

5). Zhao, H.; Themelis, N. J.; Bourtsalas, A.; McGillis, W. R. (2019). “Methane Emissions from Landfills.” Available at: https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.17326.77120. (Accessed 8 November 2022).

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