Landfill Legacy

04.21.2021 - By Costing the Earth

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The UK has dramatically reduced the amount of waste which goes into landfill over the last 25 years, but there are are still decades worth of rubbish underground, buried by generations gone by. Until the 1970s there were almost no rules about what could be put into landfill and very few records were kept before the 1980s, so no-one really knows what's lurking underground. The 1990s saw a change of attitude, with the EU landfill directive and the introduction in the UK of the landfill tax. But coastal erosion means that some our old landfill sites are now disgorging their contents, and leaking rubbish from half a century ago back into the environment. Tom Heap visits a site on the Thames estuary, and sees bin bags, old tyres, broken glass, corroded batteries and bits of asbestos spilling out onto the shore. With more than a thousand UK landfill sites now believed to be at risk from erosion or flooding, Tom learns that the ghosts of our old disposal habits are coming back to haunt us - and asks what can be done about it.

Producer: Emma Campbell

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