In the 1990s, the Czech Republic dealt with waste by building over 220 landfills with a huge capacity to absorb mainly mixed municipal waste. This is an incredible amount for such a small country. Currently, 46% of municipal waste is landfilled.
Just to give you an idea, Germany currently landfills 0%, Austria 3%, and the Netherlands only 2% of all waste produced by the Dutch. Municipalities use landfill because it is the simplest and cheapest solution. The new law, which has been 8 years in the making, has no chance of passing.
The landfillers, who have made a gold mine out of their landfill and collection business, simply will not let the law go into effect. Why? Because it wants to make the fees that landfills have to pay to the state more expensive. This would, of course, bring other types of waste management into play, such as recycling, material recovery or energy recovery. These methods of making something better out of waste are, of course, more expensive.
The cost of firefighting is not paid by landfill operators, but by all of us
But landfills will cost us a lot more over time. We pay with health, we pay with money, and our children will pay with health and money. Since 2010, fire departments have responded to 8,262 landfill fires.
These fires release huge amounts of pollutants into the air, such as deadly dioxins, CO,CO2, NOx, sulphur compounds and other pollutants that we all breathe. The exits can also be quantified in monetary terms. Since 2010, it has cost CZK 26 262 800 to deal with direct damage from landfill fires. Unfortunately, the indirect damage cannot be estimated at all.
Methane and drinking water contamination
The landfill does not have to burn without causing great damage to the environment. It itself releases methane, which causes the greenhouse effect. And even in landfills where landfill gas is taken, not nearly all of it is captured.
Every landfill leaks at some point. The huge risk of groundwater contamination is obvious. In many cases, it is already happening and the number of cases is increasing. Cleaning up the water costs a lot of money, which we have to pay. Before we clean the water, before we even know that it is faulty, we and our children are drinking contaminated water.
Landfillers do not want to lose their business even after 2024, when the current law will ban landfilling. Through the power of money and lobbying, they have not allowed new legislation to emerge. In doing so, they have prevented the emergence of greener waste management.
So we will continue to have cheap waste, but at the cost of poisoning the air, the water, and our children will spend huge amounts of money on landfill remediation in the future. The Germans, Austrians or Dutch have more expensive waste, true. They are paying extra for the safety and health of their children, and that is wise. So how are we going to do it?