Christmas Waste

On average, each family generates an additional 5 refuse sacks of waste over the Christmas period in the UK. Research would suggest that around 40% of turkey, sprouts (no surprise there!) and trimmings are thrown away, around 125,000 tonnes of plastic is sent to landfill and the amount of wrapping paper discarded would cover an area of over 83 square miles, an area larger than Guernsey! 750,000 tonnes of waste is produced over the Christmas period alone, much of this ending up at Landfill sites throughout the country.

Although government and local authority initiatives are ensuring that more waste than ever is recycled, in the UK alone, around 300 million tonnes of waste is still sent to Landfill each year.

There are numerous well documented environmental problems associated with Landfills. One in particular, is the production of Landfill gas (LFG). One tonne of biodegradable waste can produce over 150 m3 of LFG as it decomposes!

LFG is produced from the anaerobic digestion of organic waste within a landfill. The gas usually constitutes 40 to 60% methane with the remainder being mainly carbon dioxide, however LFG may also contain over 500 other compounds including Nitrogen, Oxygen, Sulphides, Hydrogen, Alkanes, Alkenes, Alcohols, Aldehydes, Ketones, Carbon Monoxide, Trichloroethylene, Benzene, Vinyl chloride, other VOC’s and Mercury

Such gas therefore can potentially be the cause of physiological, chemical, physical or ecological harm. Indeed, methane in particular is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide and emissions into the atmosphere have severe implications for global warming and climate change.

LFG can also migrate through the soil and escape beyond the boundaries of the landfill site where it can create potentially explosive and intoxicating atmospheres in adjacent properties.

As such, appropriate measures must be taken in order to control the accumulation and migration of landfill gas. In 2010, the Environment Agency published a technical guidance note (LFTG No4 v 3.0) where they outline the priority trace components that should be monitored in landfill gas.

This suite of analysis forms part of the extensive range of LFG and Soil vapour testing that is available at SAL. In addition, Methyl mercaptan, a chemical that sprouts in particular contain in abundance and the substance that gives them their characteristic odour, will also be detected within this suite of tests.