The Sustainable Landfill Foundation was established in 1999 with the aim of investigating the feasibility of sustainable landfilling at new landfill sites. The Foundation is now working with scientists, government authorities, specialists and consultants to investigate how to make existing landfills more sustainable.

The Sustainable Landfill Foundation represents all the Dutch landfill operators. The board of the Foundation has five members: two members represent the landfill operators that are running a large-scale experiment into sustainable landfilling, two represent the remaining landfill operators, and the Foundation is chaired by Hans Boer (Attero). The Foundation’s secretariat is hosted by the Dutch Waste Management Association.

Sustainable landfill

The goal of sustainable landfilling is to ensure that new landfill sites pose no risks at all to people and the environment. This is achieved by processing the landfilled waste in a sustainable way so that future generations of people and wildlife have no cause for concern.

Current practice

In current landfill practice, the site operator first installs a lining to seal the base of the landfill. Waste is then tipped into the landfill over a period of many years. When it is full the site is capped with an impermeable cover. The waste is then fully enclosed and sealed from the environment. It remains in place in the state in which it was landfilled. The disadvantage of this system is that these landfill sites have to be perpetually maintained and monitored, and all the safety measures put in place must continue to work properly. Also, the impermeable cover must be periodically replaced, which is a major operation because everything that has been placed on top of the landfill first has to be removed. This makes it difficult to restore sites for new uses. Moreover, such sites remain a burden and a source of uncertainty for future generations.

Sustainable landfill practice

Sustainable landfill practice makes use of natural processes. When different types of wastes come into contact they may react with each other, water being an important medium for setting such reactions in motion or for stopping them. The type of wastes and the proportions in which they are mixed also make a difference. These differences can be used to speed up the rate of biological degradation, control leaching and immobilise contaminants.

Sustainable landfill delivers better results than current landfill practices. The critical processes within the landfill are known and emissions remain within the required limits. Sustainable landfill techniques can be used for almost every type of waste, but the right mix of wastes is essential for getting the best results. Crucially, sustainable landfills do not need an impermeable cover to prevent water coming into contact with the waste; an equilibrium is reached between the materials in the landfill and the surrounding environment.

Research by the Sustainable Landfill Foundation, completed in 2006, demonstrated that sustainable landfilling is a realistic and feasible technique for future landfill sites. Follow-up research (2006–2010) has shown that the technique can also be used in a modified form on existing landfill sites.

Introducing Sustainable Landfill

Since 2010 the Sustainable Landfill Foundation has been working with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, the provincial governments, scientific institutes and the Dutch Waste Management Association to find ways of making landfilling more sustainable.To this end, the participating parties established the ‘introducing Sustainable Landfill’ programme (iDS).

Innovative experiment

In 2016 a ten year programme of innovative research into the sustainable management of landfills began on three pilot sites. The research will investigate the possibilities for speeding up the processes of degrading, stabilising or otherwise rendering harmless the contaminants in the landfill. The quality of the remaining material should then meet a set of agreed environmental standards to ensure that the landfill presents no risk to the environment and will no longer have to be monitored and managed. If the experiment succeeds, perpetual aftercare of closed landfill sites will be a thing of the past and the problem will not be passed on to future generations. The environment and the economy will both benefit.

Accelerated degradation processes

Sustainable landfill management makes use of natural degradation processes.First water and then air is pumped into the body of the landfillto stimulate biodegradation.Research conducted over the past twenty years has shown that this can lead to a considerable reduction in concentrations of contaminants in the landfill.Some contaminants are degraded and others immobilised by binding to solid matter in the waste.

International interest

Dutch research into sustainable management of landfill sites is attracting interest from abroad. Modern legislation almost always requires a programme of aftercare until landfill sites no longer pose a threat to human health and the environment, but the question of how to assess this – particularly in the longer term – has not yet been answered. The ‘introducing Sustainable Landfill’ programme aims to provide the answer.

More information about the ‘introducing Sustainable Landfill’ programme can be found on www.duurzaamstortbeheer.nl/english-page.


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