t The true impact of landfill | CoolBox Insights Skip to main content


The World’s First Kerbside Recyclable Water Ice Pack

Patent Pending Innovation

We all know that landfill sites have a negative impact on the environment, the primary ones being greenhouse gases, toxins and leachate (contaminated liquids) that are generated and leach into our ecosystems as a result of landfill waste disposal. Understanding the impact that all of these elements, plus other, smaller effects of landfill waste, have on our world as a whole is really important. Without awareness, people will continue to throw away items into landfill sites instead of looking for other avenues for their waste to be reused, recycled or otherwise dealt with.

Greenhouse Gases

Landfill sites produce a number of toxic gases; the most dangerous of these are methane and carbon dioxide. These are known as Greenhouse Gases, as they absorb and emit radiant energy – this means they trap heat and make the planet hotter. This in turn causes climate change with effects such as extreme weather, food supply disruptions, more wildfires, droughts, and many more effects.


Landfill sites leach toxins into the surrounding earth, which becomes an environmental hazard to the soil and water table. Materials such as PVC, mercury, lead, acids and arsenic are all found seeping into the environment in landfill sites, and none of these biodegrade quickly – some can take thousands and thousands of years to break down, all the time leaking toxins into the earth.

Landfill damage
When we say landfill sites are damaging, we really mean it
A model of circular production and consumption, where we look to recycle/reuse/repair/refurbish existing materials and products as long as possible


The three main areas of pollution arising from landfill waste, aside from the toxins and gases as already discussed, are:

  • Dust and smoke
  • Foul odours
  • Noise


Leachate is the result of rainwater that has filtered through waste sitting in a landfill environment. This water leaches chemicals from the waste, which then goes on to contaminate the soil around and/or sit as standing “toxic soup”. Leachate may contain any number of harmful chemicals that can cause serious health problems.

As above, there are other impacts that landfill sites have on our environment and communities, such as:

Dust and smoke – landfill sites produce both, with activities such as moving waste around and incineration. There are regulations that every landfill site must obey in order to keep their permit or licence in place; these regulations exist to try and reduce the amount of dust and smoke being emitted, as well as the type of smoke especially – all landfill sites must prevent dark smoke, and find alternatives to burning waste in the open, for example. however, it is impossible to reduce the amount of dust and smoke entirely, so these still become issues that impact the earth.

Foul odours – Landfill sites are high producers of Hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs even at low levels, and pungent ammonia. These gases can also irritate the eyes and throat. People living near to landfill sites will be impacted by these gases, and the sheer stink alone can also have a detrimental effect on house prices in nearby residential zones. As with dust and smoke, there are odour management regulations that landfill sites have to abide by, but the smell and gases still escape.

Noise – noise pollution is classed as noise that has detrimental impacts on human or animal life. Whilst landfill sites themselves don’t tend to be that noisy (apart from the sound of the birds!), the surrounding processes of managing a landfill site can create noise pollution. This includes the vehicles that transfer the waste, any material processing plants on site and unplanned explosions.

Pest infestations

There are many diverse types of rodents, insects and birds that populate landfill sites; whilst they do tend to remain on the site itself, they still have an impact on the wider community.


  • There are many types of rodents that make their homes in landfill sites. These include rats, mice and voles.
  • These rodents can be responsible for the spread of disease in surrounding areas, particularly rats, who are known carriers of diseases such as Leptospirosis, Versiniosis and Cryptosporidium.
  • Rodents that travel to and from landfill sites but may nest nearby also pose problems to the surrounding areas, as they tend to try to destroy items such as furniture to make their nests.
  • Eating landfill waste can also impact the health of the rodents – studies conducted on rats from landfill sites have shown plastic waste in their digestive systems.


  • Insects also love landfill sites, and can thrive in such conditions in a way they cannot in more domestic settings.
  • The most common insect infestation on a landfill site is the common house fly, and they are found in most areas on a site such as recycling centres, waste collection vehicles and transfer stations, as well as the landfill site itself.
  • Other insect infestations include cockroaches, centipedes, wasps, mosquitoes and ants.
  • Insects may not seem like they could pose a big problem to the environment by living in landfill, but they actually help to spread bacteria around the surrounding areas, especially flies. When they live in mass quantities on a landfill site and then travel to surrounding areas, they become a pest nuisance that can also pose a health risk, especially in the case of files and stinging or biting insects such as wasps.
  • Not only do insect infestations impact the environment and health of surrounding areas, living in landfill can also change the way they behave. There was a case in point where the Australian Jewel Beetle began trying to mate with a specific type of beer bottle, as the design was so similar to the rear end of the beetle (and this is how they mate).


  • A variety of birds, especially Gulls, love landfill sites because of the mass amount of food waste they can pick from – these scavengers can often be seen flying above landfill in any county you can name. However, they can’t always nest locally, so can travel many miles each day to roost. This increases the risk of avian disease transfer, as well as high levels of bird excrement in their flight paths. These faeces can contain E.coli (as well as up to 60 other diseases) which can have disastrous impacts on health if ingested.
  • The other thing to consider is the impact on the birds from eating potentially toxic waste. This takes them away from their natural diet, and means they are ingesting plastics, metals and other waste materials.
  • Landfill sites can also impact the natural migration cycles of birds, as they stay in the area longer than they would normally if a rich food source wasn’t present.

Fire risk

There is an increased risk of fire from landfill sites due to the dangerous substances present, as well as the bacterial activity and aerobic decomposition taking place at all times. Fires pose risk to life, as well as the subsequent smoke and pollution that comes with them.

Landfill fires can smoke for weeks, sometimes months, giving out high loads of toxins, chemicals and gases as they burn.

Loss of habitat

As more and more landfill sites have been created to deal with the mass amount of waste us humans produce, habitat sites for all species have been lost. Not only do people now have to live nearer to landfill sites than ever before, we’ve also lost precious green lands to them. These lands would have previously been home to birds, insects and wildlife, but are now home to decomposing waste and dangerous substances instead.