Written by Karina Zile Last updated on 28 May 2021
A brief history of landfills in the UK
Development of the modern landfill in the UK started with the Public Health Act 1875. It made local authorities responsible for collection of municipal solid waste (MSW) and its disposal, while residents were from then on required to store their waste in bins, available for collection. Initially there were no requirements to keep any records about the waste disposed of in landfills. The first such requirement was introduced by the Control of Pollution Act 1974. It was followed by the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 that added a requirement to keep records of how much biodegradable, non-biodegradable and hazardous waste has been accepted at each landfill. Keeping even more detailed records, including waste origin, type, volume and precise disposal location within a landfill, became mandatory with the introduction of The Landfill (England and Wales) Regulations 2002. As for hazardous waste, since 1974 its disposal in a landfill has had to be recorded, since 1994 the precise disposal location within a landfill has had to be recorded, and since 2004 the co-disposal of hazardous waste with non-hazardous waste at the same landfill has been prohibited.
Historic landfills in the UK
A historic landfill, according to the Environment Agency for England, is a closed landfill with no Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permit or waste management licence currently in force. This includes both sites that existed before the waste licensing regime, and sites that have been licensed in the past but the licence is no longer in force. Until 1995 there was very little information about historic landfills. The Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995 introduced restrictions on developing land within 250 metres of landfill sites that have received waste in the past 30 years. To be able to comply with these regulations, The Historic Landfill dataset was created by gathering data from local authorities, the former Department of the Environment, the British Geological Society and the Environment Agency. This dataset contains 19,722 historic landfills in England (map) and 1,501 in Wales. Similar datasets for Scotland and Northern Ireland don’t yet exist.