Types of landfills: What they are and what they are for

Tipos de vertederos: Cuáles son y para qué sirven

The waste we generate every day goes to the various types of landfills that exist. The first station is the containers that are close to home, then they are taken to recycling plants or can be moved to a landfill.

These landfill sites have various characteristics and rules, and they always seek to prevent the waste being disposed of from having a negative influence on the environment.

Stay with us and you will know the types of landfills that exist, their characteristics, landfill regulations and the impact they generate on the environment.

What are landfills?

¿Qué son los vertederos?

Landfills are the spaces usually located on the outskirts of cities. This is where the waste from the containers generated in each of the communities in a country is deposited.

They are deposits designed superficially or underground to be used as a temporary or even permanent storage of the waste. In addition, there are waste disposal areas within these spaces.

Types of landfills

Tipos de vertederos

The waste that is thrown in the landfills is stored there for a considerable time.

By having several wastes together – in the same space – they decompose slowly. This is because they do not have the necessary amount of oxygen or high levels of humidity, factors that accelerate decomposition.

This makes it easier to bury the waste where the landfill sites are located.

Let’s look at the different types of landfills around the world.

Clandestine or uncontrolled dumps

These are places where people choose to dump their waste, without permission from any government entity.

They are located in waste areas, drains, ravines or flat lands that are a little far from the areas where the houses or developed areas were built.

This type of landfill originates from people who do not wish to spend money on waste disposal and from people in small towns who do not have frequent waste management services.

Despite being far from the people who live there, they cause serious environmental and health problems.

Some examples are the contamination of water by leachate and the appearance of flies capable of transmitting bacteria that make people sick.

Official or controlled landfills

These spaces have been evaluated under economic, environmental and social aspects by the Ministry and the agencies in charge of operating as a dump.

In comparison to uncontrolled landfills, these spaces are regulated by a series of standards and controls determined by the health authorities that manage them.

These landfills contain and dispose of waste that is difficult or impossible to reuse, to prevent it from coming into contact with the environment and contributing to pollution.

Even if they do not have the raw material needed to manufacture new products, keeping the garbage in landfills stores the gases produced during decomposition that can be used in other activities.

Characteristics of an official dumping area

Características de una zona de vertido oficial

The characteristics of an official landfill depend on its method of management, the properties of the land on which it is to be built and the distance from residential areas.

In order for this type of landfill to have the capacity to contain the waste, it must have


At this stage the area is cleaned up by removing trees, bushes or brush that do not allow the necessary machinery and equipment to pass through the landfill.

The land must be left clean and without vegetation.


Depending on the capacity of the landfill to be built, the staff must work on the land to get the appropriate measures and start waterproofing the land.

Waterproofing will prevent waste from leaking into the soil and contaminating the groundwater.

Entrance and exit accesses

It is important to build pedestrian and double-track canals so that trucks with the waste can easily deposit it in the landfill.

As far as possible, they should have wide accesses that do not interrupt the loading and unloading of any type of waste.


At the entrance to the landfill, a security room is built in which a guard will keep track of people entering and leaving the site.

In addition, electric or spiked fences will be put up so that no animals or people can break through the fences protecting the dumpsite.


The landfills must have basic services such as electricity, water and telephone.

In addition, they must have restrooms within the facility for the landfill workers and must also have a first aid kit in case of an accident.

Piping network

Sewerage and pipe networks around the landfill are necessary to prevent rainwater from generating leachate.

Also, at the bottom of the landfill there should be a sewage network to drain any liquid that may remain there.

Green Screen

All types of landfills must have plants, soil and trees around the space.

This makes it impossible for people not to observe the waste treatment process and allows the smell produced by the garbage to be reduced.

Pollution generated by the creation of the landfills

Trucks carrying organic waste and any other material that cannot be recycled are sent to the landfills.

During the waste decomposition process, leachates are generated that transport the toxic substances contained in the waste in the dump and have the capacity to contaminate the groundwater in the surrounding area.

Because in some landfills the waste is buried and decomposed underground, large amounts of gases such as carbon dioxide, benzene, methane or trichloroethylene are generated.

These gases have a negative impact on climate change. Among their serious consequences is their contribution to the greenhouse effect.

If accidental fires occur in the landfills, toxic gases and chlorinated products such as dioxins are released into the atmosphere, which has been declared a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

Although more and more measures are taken to recycle as many materials as possible from waste, landfills are necessary to eliminate those that cannot be processed.

To reduce environmental pollution it is necessary to build landfills in isolated areas where waste and leachate do not come into contact with the ecosystem.

Also, in order for landfills not to generate negative impacts and pollution, it is a good strategy to implement piping systems to store the biogas that is generated by the decomposition of organic waste.

Legislation on landfills

Legislación sobre los vertederos

The Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Rest of the Population has developed a Waste Framework Directive and Law 22/2011, which states that landfills are among the last options in waste management.

This legislation was also created to prevent the contamination of the environment, water bodies, the origin of harmful substances, forest fires or the spread of disease.

That is why landfills are only used to dispose of waste that cannot be recycled or reused, after treatment to reduce its size.

Controlled or official landfills are the only ones allowed within the national territory since their soils are waterproofed, they have pipes to collect the biogas produced and they have leachate conduction systems.

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