Landfill sites produce the greenhouse gases, methane and carbon dioxide, as putrescible waste decays. Growing plants and trees on top of a landfill, a process known as 'Phytocapping', could reduce the production and release of these gases, according to Australian scientists writing in a forthcoming issue of International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management.
Despite legislative pressures to reduce landfill use, in certain parts of the world it remains the most economical and simplest method of waste disposal.
Biodegradation of organic matter in a landfill site occurs most rapidly when water comes into contact with the buried waste, explains Kartik Venkatraman and Nanjappa Ashwath of the Department of Molecular and Life Sciences, at Central Queensland University (CQU), Rockhampton, Australia. They point out that conventional approaches to reducing this effect involve placing compacted clay over the top of a landfill to form a cap that minimizes percolation of water into the landfill.
Some sites do not attempt to prevent water percolation and biodegradation and instead install gas collection systems to trap the methane released.
The use of clay capping has generally proved ineffective in trials in the USA, the researchers say. The problem being that in arid regions the clay cap dries out and cracks allowing water to easily percolate into the landfill. Equally problematic, methane gas collection is an inordinately expensive option for many Australian landfills that do not reach the methane production threshold to enable efficiency.
Hence, a new technique, known as phytocapping, which involves placing a layer of top soil and growing dense vegetation on top of a landfill, was successfully trailed at Rockhampton's Lakes Creek Landfill not far from Central Queensland University. This research was conducted by Kartik Venkatraman and Nanjappa Ashwath (CQU) in conjunction with the Rockhampton Regional Cou
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