Environmental impacts

JCB on a landfill siteAs a contribution towards reducing the environmental impact of landfills, including leachate production and methane emissions, Article 5 of the EC Directive on the Landfill of Waste has set very challenging targets for all Member States of the European Union to reduce the amount of BMW that they landfill. In Wales, we are committed to ensuring that we make our contribution towards the United Kingdom meeting its targets in the years to come.

The landfill of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) can cause environmental problems, including the production of leachate and the production and release to the environment of methane. Landfill leachate has the potential to pollute groundwater and requires treatment. Methane is 21 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. This contributes to the phenomenon of global warming and consequent climate change, which poses serious threats to the ecosystems upon which we all depend.

JCB on a landfill site surrounded by a flock of seagullsOne tonne of biodegradable waste produces between 200 and 400m3 of landfill gas.

Landfills released 25% of the UK's methane emissions in 2001, about 2% of our greenhouse gas emissions (in terms of carbon equivalents).

About a third of the 500 landfill sites taking significant amounts of biodegradable waste have gas controls and many sites extract the gas for energy recovery.

About 48% of renewable gas and electricity now comes from landfill gas in Great Britain.

Burning the methane produces carbon dioxide, which has a much weaker global warming effect. Extending these measures will reduce methane emissions over the next 10 years.