From the historical point of view, landfills are the leading and oldest way to treat waste and probably constitute the first waste management system.
In Banyoles (Girona) there is a Neolithic site (La Draga) which is over 7,300 years old with pits that were used as landfills.
The simple accumulation of waste discharges, traditionally known as dumps, has evolved into a landfill-controlled deposit, where we try to minimize the impact that garbage accumulation has on our environment. Landfills – or sanitary landfills– are waste disposal facilities which are either superficial or underground. They are waterproofed, the gas emitted is (partially) captured and waters are collected.
There are three 3 different classes of landfills, classes according to the waste type deposited in them: the nonhazardous landfill, hazardous landfill and those for inert waste (demolition or construction debris). In all the garbarge types, I’m going to center my review in the nonhazardous landfill, since, as I have said, this is where most of the municipal waste from households and businesses ends up.
Landfills dispose of waste superficially or underground
Of the total waste generated in 2012, in Catalonia, the 46% ended up in landfills; in Spain, this figure was 61%; in Europe (EU27), only 33% and in the main cities of around the world, 56%.
1/2 of the garbage in cities around the world ends up in landfill
I would not like to end this chapter without saying that, thanks to advances in technology and legislation advances, in Spain, in Europe and the West in general, dumps are landfills or controlled waste deposits, since they are waterproofed and, have a system for capturing biogas, among other measures. However, in Spain, it is still estimated that in Spain still 4% of the waste does is not have any treated in any way and is dumped in an uncontrolled and illegal way manner in fields and mountains. A Some sad examples is are the Abanilla landfill or the one in Campoamor one (it which is closed now, although but it is still contaminated). And do not forget that the European Commission denounced the Spanish State for having 61 illegal dumps illegally.
Worldwide, it is estimated that 10% of urban waste ends up in uncontrolled dumps. You can see the environmental impact of these uncontrolled discharges in the shocking documentary TRASHED, where a dump in Syria directly contaminates the Mediterranean Sea.
Want to know more?
i The book Stop garbage. The truth about recycling, Alex Pascual, February 2019
► Award-winning documentary TRASHED, starring Jeremy Irons. Very instructive, easy to understand, with good images, good content and good technical details (ENG)
►Basureros para rato, RTVE. Program El Escarabajo Verde Pro, a documentary about illegal dumps (CAST)
i Europe denounces Spain for having 61 illegal landfills (ENG)
i Landfill closure in Menorca due to leachate leakage (CAT)
. Residues that do not undergo any physical-chemical or biological transformation
. Data extracted from Prevention and waste management general program, Catalonia 2013-2020. Data does not sum account for100% due to the weight reduction
 EUROSTAT. Official statistics. European Union
. “What a Waste,” World Bank report, 2012
. Libro Verde de la sostenibilidad urbana y local en la era de la información, Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente, 2012
. Brussels denounces Spain for not eliminating 61 illegal dumps,” El País, 16 July 2015
. “What a Waste,” World Bank, 2012