Example of a properly closed landfill

Diagram Properly Closed Landfill
source: "Diagram 1. Example of a Properly Closed Landfill," in Fact Flash 6: Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Washington, DC, 1999

estimated at about twenty thousand. In 1979, as part of the RCRA, the EPA designated conditions under which solid waste disposal facilities and practices would not pose adverse effects to human health and the environment. As a result of the implementation of these criteria, open dumps had to be closed or upgraded to meet the criteria for landfills.

Additionally, many more landfills closed in the early 1990s because they could not conform to the new standards that took effect in 1993 under the 1992 RCRA amendment. Other landfills closed as they became full. According to the EPA, the number of landfills available for MSW disposal decreased dramatically between 1988 and 2003 from 7,924 to 1,767. (See Figure 6.11.)

Landfilling is expected to continue to be the single most predominant MSW management method. In the coming decades, it will be economically prohibitive to develop and maintain small-scale, local landfills. There will likely be fewer, larger, and more regional operations. More MSW is expected to move away from its point of generation, resulting in increased import and export rates.

Although the United States is one of the least crowded industrialized nations in the world, in terms of population density per acre, population density and available landfill space vary widely across the country. New areas for landfills are becoming increasingly hard to find in some areas of the country (such as the Northeast), while other states have plenty of landfill space available. A few states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island) have insufficient land with suitable soil and water conditions for landfills. Since landfills are not welcome in most neighborhoods, useable land must be found away from residential areas. Several states in the Northeast and Midwest have very little landfill capacity remaining.

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