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Throw it Away. Where is Away? Landfills.

What happens to you trash when you throw it away? Trash does not simply go away. Trash is taken to municipal landfills or dumps. Each day landfills receive trash, spread it out, and cover it with a layer of soil. Sometimes, the soil is mixed withsludge from sewers. However, the soil and trash layers are routinely compacted so as to use the space most effectively. Within the layers of soil trash is being decomposed. Compacting decreases the rate of decomposition of trash. Decomposition is the chemical breakdown of materials and requires air (oxygen) and water to hasten the process. Leachate and methane are two byproducts of decomposition. Both are potentially hazardous and as a result landfills are regulated so as to reduce the negative impacts of these by-products. Leachate can potentially contaminate municipal water sources such as groundwater and aquifers, therefore all landfills must be lined with either plastic or clay to prevent leachate pollution.

How does a landfill work?

Landfills require careful planning, time, and money before they become a reality. Work on a landfill site begins only after the site passes strict legal, environmental, and engineering tests. It is not a quick procedure; it can take five years before the landfill is ready to use, at a cost of $2 to $4 million. Scroll your mouse over the landfill diagram to learn more about the construction and operation of a landfill. Glossary term: leachate Taking away your trash is not free! Landfills need money to pay workers and to maintain safety and environmental safeguards. Some communities charge a flat monthly pickup fee while other communities charge by the amount of trash, by the bag, or waste can. This is called a tipping fee.