7 March 2018 by Elizabeth Slow

Why we need to bury the idea of plastics in landfill

Neil Grundon, deputy chairman of Grundon Waste Management, says talk of storing low grade plastics in landfill sites for future extraction is not the answer.

It is not often that I read an article that makes my blood boil. Correction, articles often make my blood boil, but none quite as much as the one in last week’s www.letsrecycle.com about what to do with low grade plastics.

Bury them, seemed to be the solution. I will say that again, bury them.

Neil Grundon, deputy chairman, Grundon Waste Management

You see, I choose to buy my Waitrose chicken in a plastic bag telling me all about how it was raised in a wood with its friends playing hopscotch, nestled on its own plastic tray to stop any blood from swilling about in case it upsets my sensibilities; I choose to buy my potatoes in a plastic bag with a picture of potatoes on the front, just in case I forget what they look like.


I choose to buy razor blades hermetically sealed in a plastic equivalent of Alcatraz; I choose a punctured Lillo; a composite dashboard; a dusty piece of Christmas tinsel and, when they are all done and finished with, I can feel much safer knowing they have been separated out into their component parts, baled and then geo-located in cell 5 of mega landfill number 30 somewhere near Tonbridge Wells.

Because isn’t that just how landfilling works? It doesn’t, although you could be forgiven for thinking so after reading the article I’m referring to.

And I should know, because I virtually grew up on one. For me, the summer holidays were spent rooting around the tip face for something interesting to mess up my room with.

Favourite finds were anything from part of a set from the local film studios, an old motor or 55 packets of cat food. Because this is what you get in a landfill, and the only thing you can ‘mine’ from it is methane and bad smells.

Indeed, the only places that landfills have been ‘mined’ – and for ‘mine’ replace with ‘dug up’ – are where the development value has eventually overtaken the cost of remediation.

That aside, can you even imagine trying to get permission for a new landfill? You would have more luck applying to build an abattoir next to Stonehenge.


To even suggest that it is preferable to landfill plastic rather than burn it, is just silly, and to then compare the energy produced from an Energy From Waste (EfW) plant with a gas fired power station, is like comparing apples with well, err… spaceships?

You see the waste industry is quite aptly named, we get rid of the stuff that no-one wants and that’s a big clue.

By sending that waste to an EfW plant, we get some electricity and power as a consequence, even though we are not the people who gave you the stuff in the first place.

EfWs have the potential to deliver the diversion of 100% of waste from landfill – and surely we want less not more waste being buried – and they are a sustainable solution for waste management and energy creation.

EfWs have the potential to deliver the diversion of 100% of waste from landfill – and surely we want less not more waste being buried – and they are a sustainable solution for waste management and energy creation.

Neil Grundon
Grundon Waste Management

They do so much more too. EfWs reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gases, such as methane, generated from landfill sites. Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA) can be recovered and recycled and Air Pollution Control residue (APCr) is now capable of being converted into the world’s first truly carbon-negative aggregate. Both of these processes provide materials which are more sustainable alternatives to natural aggregates – another big plus.

So let’s not throw stones at EfWs – they’d never reach anyway.

Yes, plastic recycling does still has a long way to go, and its development now cheap landfills have been replaced with more expensive EfW plants will continue apace.

Carbon tax

That aside, there is one thing that I agree with the originator of this incredible article about. Let us hope that a carbon tax will eventually keep more of these petrochemicals back in the ground where they belong.

In the meantime, surely all this talk of ‘sky-fill’ instead of landfill is really just pie in the sky.

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