Why can’t we just send rubbish to landfill?

Landfill isn’t a long-term solution because:

  • it produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide;
  • landfill sites are almost always outside London; and
  • taxation makes it very expensive.

Landfill is the worst option for disposing of non-recyclable waste because of its impact on the environment and cost to the taxpayer. By using energy recovery, we will save the equivalent of 215,000 tonnes of CO2 every year under current assessments compared with disposing to landfill. That’s like taking 110,000 cars off the road each year.  

As waste decomposes in a landfill site it generates landfill gas – a mixture of methane, carbon dioxide and water vapour. Methane is around 25 times stronger as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Landfill is still a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The waste sector accounts for around 4% of total UK greenhouse emissions and, within this 4%, methane accounts for 92% of emissions. Sending waste to landfill will result in the generation of methane as it rots, contributing further to this figure.

All the landfill sites that are available to NLWA are outside London so there is a cost to transporting the waste to landfill for disposal. In addition, a tax of £94.15 per tonne has to be paid on every tonne of waste that is sent to landfill, and this charge is likely to continue to rise in response to the Climate Emergency. From 2027, landfilling waste has been costed at an additional £15 million to £26 million per year for north London.

The EU, UK Government and the Greater London Authority are all clear that landfill is the least appropriate solution for the environment. As a result, the NLWA is committed to saving as much waste as possible from being sent to landfill and treating it through energy recovery to help transition towards a carbon neutral future.