All clear for follow-up pilots
Sustainable Landfill Management

Every year, we produce about 60 million tonnes of waste in the Netherlands. The vast majority of this waste is recycled or incinerated, generating energy. A relatively small proportion, less than two million tonnes, ends up in landfill sites where it remains forever, carefully packaged. This enclosed waste requires perpetual monitoring and maintenance to prevent pollution from leaking (emission) into the environment. This is known as IBC, 'Isolate, Manage and Control'.

A disadvantage of this approach is that the emission potential of these landfills remains the same. This is not in line with the principle of sustainability and is therefore not a future-proof solution. For this reason, the Sustainable Landfill Foundation has reviewed the perpetual IBC. In October 2015 this resulted in the signing of the Green Deal on Sustainable Landfill Management by the State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment, the Minister for Economic Affairs, a number of provinces, waste companies, the Waste Management Association and the Sustainable Landfill Foundation.

The Sustainable Landfill Experiment: what does it involve?

On 1 July 2016, a 10-year experiment was launched as part of the Green Deal Sustainable Landfill Management. The experiment entails carrying out pilot projects at three landfill sites with measures to eliminate the emission of harmful substances from the landfill site. To this end, two of the three pilot sites are treated by aeration and one by recirculation and treatment of the percolate (infiltration water). The hypothesis is that the treatment leads to the following processes:

  • Degradation (biological or otherwise) of pollutants.
  • Fixation by adhesion of these substances to (very) poorly degradable organic material in the landfill mass.
  • Discharge of the substances from the landfill mass via the percolate or captured landfill gas.

The processes in the landfills are constantly measured and monitored. Subsequent studies have been conducted at the sites to optimise and better understand the processes. Scientists from various universities are involved in these studies.

Final goal of the experiment

If these pilots are successful, the legislation for landfill sites will be amended and it will no longer be compulsory to apply a top and bottom seal. Landfills may then be 'rendered harmless' according to the Sustainable Landfill Management method. This ensures that a perpetual IBC is no longer required, but only an active treatment in the initial phase, followed by a gradual phasing out of aftercare.

Interim evaluation: Go/No Go moment for the Sustainable Landfill Experiment

Based on our years of soil remediation expertise and experience with large integrated projects such as the POP-UP project (on emerging substances) Bioclear earth was asked to prepare an independent interim evaluation based on the large amount of data, recorded in partial reports, in combination with all previously made agreements. The client needed an overview and insight into the state of affairs, as well as a critical view from a party that was not involved in the experiments. The main question was: is it clear at this stage whether the experiment has a chance of success or not? Are adjustments needed in the process, are all agreements being respected and are any new agreements necessary?

Geert Jan ten Napel, Chairman of the iDS Project Group: "We deliberately looked for a party outside the circle of experts who are closely involved in the experiment. We ended up working with Bioclear earth. That worked out great: they handled our request very well. Their findings quickly led to improvements in our working methods. For example: much more was done than was documented in the progress reports. This has been changed immediately. The feedback from Bioclear earth resulted in an overall quality improvement.” 


Our conclusion is that, based on the current information, there is no reason to stop the experiment at this point in time. The processes in the landfill are still developing, therefore the outcome is not yet certain. However, the data show that there is sufficient reason to continue the research and moreover there are no additional risks for the environment compared to regular aftercare of landfill sites. In addition, we have concluded that probably more time than the estimated 10 years will be needed to bring the experiment to a successful conclusion. All in all, the green light is given for the continuation of the Sustainable Landfill Experiment!

If you want to know more about this project or if you want an independent advice about the phasing out of IBC at your location, please contact Adri Nipshagen or Cirsten Zwaagstra.

Adri Nipshagen
Senior consultant soil
Cirsten Zwaagstra
Consultant soil & water