14 Methane Emissions from Landfills Problems and Solutions

Landfills are known to release harmful gases into the environment even going close to a landfill site exposes you to some bad odor. So, as you dive into this article, enlighten yourself on the methane emissions from landfills problems and solutions. This is a useful tool as we strive to live sustainably.

Landfills are locations set aside for disposing of garbage, trash, and other kinds of solid waste. They have historically been the most popular method of getting rid of solid garbage, which is either buried or let to build up in heaps.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane account for around 99% of landfill emissions. Methane and CO2 are landfill gases that are created when bacteria break down organic waste, or biodegradable waste from plants and animals.

Between 45% and 60% of the gas from landfills is made up of methane. In comparison to CO2, it is 20 to 30 times more powerful. Methane is a combustible gas that can be dangerous and provide a significant fire risk.

Additionally, it is the principal cause of global warming and climate change. Methane harms the ecosystem and threatens the air, water, soil, and biodiversity by destroying habitats and destroying them.

Exposure to this hazardous gas might cause several health problems, such as nausea, tiredness, and vomiting.

The Waste Management landfill in Livermore, Calif. on Wednesday Dec. 26, 2012. San Francisco has recently thrown out an agreement with Recology to start dumping trash at a new landfill in Yuba County starting in 2015. Multiple lawsuits were filed for environmental reasons and one by Waste Management alleges that the bidding process was unfair. Waste Management owns the landfill where the city currently puts its trash. (Photo By Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Methane Emissions from Landfills Problems and Solutions

Let’s examine the issues raised by methane release and potential solutions to these issues. Before discussing potential solutions, let’s first examine the issues.

Problems with Methane Emissions from Landfills

Landfill methane emissions are a major cause of various environmental and health issues. The following are some of the main problems caused by landfill methane emissions

  • Climate Change
  • Air Pollution
  • Explosion and Fire Risks
  • Bad Odor
  • Methane Recovery Potential

1. Climate Change

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas with a far faster rate of potential global warming than carbon dioxide. A sizeable amount of the anthropogenic methane emitted into the atmosphere comes from landfills, which are a substantial source of methane emissions.

Methane increases the greenhouse effect and traps heat, which causes global warming and its effects such as increased temperatures, altered weather patterns, sea level rise, and more frequent extreme weather events like hurricanes, droughts, and floods.

2. Air Pollution

Other pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) are frequently released along with methane emissions from landfills.

These pollutants can contribute to poor air quality, which increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and other illnesses for local communities as well as respiratory troubles, asthmatic flare-ups, and other health problems.

Additionally, ground-level ozone, a key component of smog, which can further impact human health and harm plants, can be formed as a result of VOCs.

3. Explosion and Fire Risks

Due to methane’s high flammability, the buildup of methane in and around landfills may occasionally present a risk of fire and explosion. Both the environment and public safety are at risk from this. Methane gas can move through the earth and build up in small areas, potentially harmful circumstances.

In addition to the direct release of methane into the atmosphere, landfill fires also produce air pollutants and dangerous smoke, endangering both public safety and the ecosystem. They can be difficult to put out, which causes emissions to last a long time.

4. Bad Odor

The quality of life for populations close to landfills might be impacted by the foul smells that frequently accompany methane releases from these sites.

The occupants’ well-being and quality of life may be negatively impacted by these overpoweringly nasty odors and odorous substances discharged from landfills, which may also lower property values nearby.

5. Methane Recovery Potential

Through gas collection systems, landfills offer a huge opportunity for methane recovery. Techniques like landfill gas-to-energy projects can be utilized to capture, contain, and use methane as a valuable energy resource.

But frequently, landfills lack enough infrastructure for collecting gas, which results in the uncontrolled release of methane into the sky and misses out on the potential advantages of using this renewable energy source.

Effective landfill management measures that prioritize lowering metrhane, such as improved waste management practices, improved gas collecting systems, and more investment in alternative waste treatment methods, are necessary to address these issues.

Methane can be used as an energy source and properly captured from landfills to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to help the economy and advance sustainable waste management techniques.

The amount of organic waste delivered to landfills can be reduced by switching to sustainable waste management strategies, such as waste reduction, recycling, and composting. This will lower methane emissions.

Solutions to Landfill Methane Emissions

There are numerous ways to reduce landfill methane emissions. Here are a few sensible tactics

  • Enhancing Waste Management
  • Methane Leak Repair and Detection
  • Gas Collection and Flaring from Landfills
  • Energy-from-Landfill-Gas Projects
  • Improved Landfill Design and Management
  • Waste Reduction and Diversion
  • Landfill Methane Oxidation
  • Regulatory Policies and Measures
  • Public Education and Awareness

1. Enhancing Waste Management

Advanced waste management techniques can reduce the volume of organic waste dumped in landfills, hence lowering methane production.

This includes encouraging recycling and composting initiatives, promoting waste reduction at the source, and supporting anaerobic digestion plants to collect methane from organic waste before it reaches landfills.

2. Methane Leak Repair and Detection

Methane leaks in landfill gas collection systems can be found and fixed by routine monitoring and inspection programs. Leaks that are promptly found and fixed guarantee that methane emissions are kept to a minimum, increasing the effectiveness of efforts to collect gas.

3. Gas Collection and Flaring from Landfills

To capture methane emissions, landfill gas collection systems must be put in place. Gas collection systems use wells and pipes to draw methane gas from the landfill’s decaying garbage.

Methane that has been collected can be flared (burned) to produce carbon dioxide, which has a lesser potential for causing global warming. Flaring reduces methane emissions’ contribution to climate change greatly even though it doesn’t totally eliminate them.

4. Energy-from-Landfill-Gas Projects

Methane can be used as a useful energy source through landfill gas-to-energy projects rather than being flared. Methane that has been extracted from landfills can be utilized to provide electricity, heat, or fuel for a variety of purposes after being cleaned of pollutants.

This strategy contributes to a sustainable energy mix by reducing methane emissions, producing renewable energy, and offering a financial incentive for methane recovery.

5. Improved Landfill Design and Management

Methane emissions can be reduced with the aid of contemporary landfill design strategies such constructed landfill cells.

These designs entail the use of methods like waste compaction to reduce oxygen availability (which encourages anaerobic conditions that produce less methane), the incorporation of impermeable liners and collection systems from the beginning, allowing for better control and capture of landfill gases while minimizing oxygen intrusion.

Infrastructure for collecting landfill gas should be put in place as soon as a landfill is developed.

6. Waste Reduction and Diversion

Diverting organic waste from landfill disposal is one of the best techniques to lower methane emissions from landfills. Promoting recycling programs, creating composting programs, and encouraging trash reduction at the source can dramatically reduce the quantity of organic waste that decomposes in landfills, hence reducing methane emission.

7. Landfill Methane Oxidation

Materials and techniques used to cover landfills can be created to encourage methane oxidation. Methane oxidation happens naturally when methane and oxygen combine in the presence of bacteria to produce carbon dioxide.

Enhancing methane oxidation through improved landfill cover design and management lowers methane emissions into the atmosphere and further lessens the environmental effect of landfills.

8. Regulatory Policies and Measures

By putting in place rules and policies that promote methane capture and utilization, governments may significantly reduce methane emissions from landfills.

Stricter landfill gas management regulations, encouraging landfill gas to be converted into renewable energy, encouraging investment in gas collection systems, establishing emission reduction goals, encouraging waste diversion and recycling, and promoting sustainable waste management practices are a few examples of these actions.

9. Public Education and Awareness

It is crucial to raise public understanding of the negative effects landfills have on the environment and the value of effective waste management.

Communities can be inspired to take both individual and group actions that help reduce methane emissions by being educated about trash reduction, recycling, and composting.

Combining these approaches makes it possible to drastically lower methane emissions from landfills, ameliorate their effects on the environment and human health, and make the switch to more environmentally friendly waste management procedures.


Having gone through this wonderful piece on the problems associated with methane emissions from landfills and what we can do about it, it would be much beneficial if this information is acted upon, only then can we handle this issue in journey to sustainable living.


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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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