Let’s talk about landfills…

As we know, fashion is, unfortunately, one of the most wasteful industries in the world. The multiple yearly seasons and low quality of garments of fast fashion translate to lots of clothes and fabrics ending up in landfills. Fast fashion stores will directly throw away unsold pieces once the season is over, and many consumers quickly grow tired of the garments or simply dump them whenever a minor flaw appears.  In the past two decades, the number of garments produced annually has doubled. In 2017, it was estimated that the fashion industry contributed 92 million tonnes of waste to the world’s landfills. We have no reason to believe these numbers have lowered in the time since, as online fast fashion retail soars.

On average, consumers throw away 60% of their clothes in their first year, and a truckload of textiles gets dumped into landfills every minute. There’s also an issue of waste within the luxury fashion industry: in 2018, it became public knowledge that Burberry had destroyed over £90 million worth of unsold items over five years, in an attempt to keep their prices high and their products exclusive. 

All this waste piles up in landfills everywhere in the world. While we all understand the concept and have seen the occasional landfill throughout our lives, the locations and characteristics of the biggest ones aren’t as widely known. Out of the top 10 largest landfills on Earth, 3 are in China, 2 in the US, 2 in India, 1 in Mexico, 1 in South Korea, and 1 in Italy. They’re usually near large and highly-populated cities, as these are the places that generate the most waste. 

In increasing order, these landfills are Xinfeng in Guangzhou, China (227 acres); West New Territories in Hong Kong (272 acres); Deonar in Mumbai, India (326 acres); Delhi Landfills in New Delhi, India (500 acres); Sudokwon in Incheon, South Korea (570 acres); Puente Hill in Los Angeles CA, USA (630 acres); Malagrotta in Rome, Italy (680 acres); Laogang in Shanghai, China (830 acres); Bordo Poniente in Mexico City, Mexico (927 acres); Apex Regional in Las Vegas NV, Isa(2,200 acres). Bear in mind that these lists can vary somewhat depending on the information provided by landfill owners and representatives, and we’ve taken into account the data from World Atlas. With that being said, let’s take a look at the five largest landfills in the world and how they’re handling their gas emissions.

1. Apex Regional (2,200 acres / 890 hectares)

It receives around 9,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day and can handle up to 15,000 tonnes daily. It opened in 1993 with a projected life of 250 years, and currently holds about 50 million tonnes of waste. It accounts for approximately 17.7% of US methane emissions.

Green measures

Apex’s methane feeds an 11-megawatt power plant that meets the energy needs of 10,000 homes in southern Nevada homes.

2. Bordo Poniente (927 acres / 373 hectares)

Bordo Poniente was established in 1985 to take debris from that year’s earthquake in Mexico City, and it was operative until 2011. In its heyday, it received 12,000 tonnes of waste daily, and it remains Latin America’s largest landfills. It currently holds around 70 million tonnes of waste.

Green measures

There are plans to tap into the landfill’s methane to produce 60 megawatts of electric power, which would eliminate 1.5 million tonnes of yearly gas emissions.

3. Laogang (830 acres / 335 hectares)

Laogang receives about 10,000 daily tonnes of municipal solid waste, which amounts to about half of Shanghai’s total waste.

Green measures

Its methane gas generates 102,189 MW-hours of green energy, covering the electric needs of 100,000 homes. In 2014, it was announced that Laogang’s methane emissions had been reduced by 25,800 metric tons, and also avoided 542,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

4. Malagrotta (680 acres / 255 hectares)

This Roman landfill takes between 4,500 and 5,000 tonnes of waste every day, numbers that make it the largest municipal solid waste landfill in continental Europe. It has a holding capacity of 60 million tonnes.

Green measures

There are plans to use Malagrotta’s methane for electricity and fuel, but so far the landfill has caused considerable environmental damage to the area where it’s located. Issues have included air contamination, soils poisoned from harmful chemicals, and underground aquifers.

5. Puente Hill (680 acres, 255 hectares)

Active between 1957 and 2013, Puente Hill received over 130 tonnes of municipal waste during its active life, and it was America’s largest landfill. In its heyday, it could receive up to 13,200 tonnes of daily waste.

Green measures

Puente Hill’s methane gas is currently used to turn a 50-megawatt power turbine that generates enough power to fulfill the power needs of 70,000 Southern California homes. The site is also being converted into a recreational regional park.