Landfills traditionally have a reputation as unpleasant places, but many modern landfills are shaking up that image to the extent that even pre-school children have dropped in for a tour.
You will find that at the landfills now, the standard of care for the environment is high. The owners are not allowed to keep the site open unless they have the skills and resources to prevent damage to the environment around the landfill site. None of he dirty water must leave the site unless it is treated, and landfill gas must be carefully controlled and used if possible for power generation and held safely from any risk of explosion, or fire. The landfills have been tidied up, and miraculously the litter which once could be seen around them has gone, and trees have been planted as screens.
So what has happened? Well the owners have taken on-board the need for improved environmental performance, and they have now realised that if they want another landfill when this one is full they will have to be a good neighbour. So, the best of them have taken the idea of good neighbourliness a bit further and added a training and educational resource centre to their site, for children and students.
Every year each student intake will visit and be given the lessons that you really cannot throw anything away and just forget it. If you do, there will be bad effects on the environment from the rotting of these materials in such huge quantities which just grow every year, and need ever more cash to be thrown at preventing damage to the environment. So, by learning about waste in these centres the visitors will go away to take some responsibility for reducing the waste they produce.
The visits also provide a forum to demonstrate the seriousness of the waste problem and the immense effort and investment needed to resolve it. The landfill resource centres all without exception provide a very clear message to their visitors that each must reduce their waste, engage in recycling and encourage their friends and relatives to do so too.
In addition to the ordinary people which visit the many landfill site environmental educational centres, they are popular with politicians and experts who attend to give specialist presentations to local residents on particular nature and conservation topics of interest. For instance, the visitors from abroad are especially interested in the state of the art techniques used to control landfill gas and leachate – techniques which make these landfills among the most advanced in the world – and they often are considering building similar landfills in their countries.
It is very rewarding to the resource centre site staff to see all generations in their centre and so willing to get involved at the growing number of these centres where the resources available are usually completely free, and know that they provide information in so many green and environmentally relevant topics.
While the work goes on within the educational centre at each site, the visitors also can observe site practice. This visibility to all helps give the residents of the neighbourhood the reassurance that any lapses in the environmental protection provided by the operator would be seen by the visitors straight away.
If standards ever dropped on these sites, it would be seen by the visitors and in no time at any failings would be seen, complained about, and put right. Without any doubt this is better than the old landfills which were hidden from public view.
So, the new breed of landfill site visitor centres, usually funded by a combination of site owner, local source, and charities, are a great but unlikely success story.
If you want to see the type of educational resource which pupils are using to inspire their envionmental projects at places like these centres visit The Environment Pack web site here.