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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.