Going up? Expanding Landfills Vertically Could Solve Florida’s Trash Problems

By: Marianela Toledo | Posted: December 2, 2013 3:55 AM

Cities and counties across the country have for years buried trash in landfills. But are we finally running out of space?

Mark Roberts, vice president of HDR Inc., a global engineering firm, doesn’t think so.

“Florida has lots of airspace,” Roberts told in a recent interview.

Using airspace, or “going up,” is an innovative approach to garbage disposal that’s not just proving effective, but undermines many of the capacity concerns historically expressed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, environmentalists and media.

It entails digging a large hole -- 200 feet deep and half a mile wide -- lining the hole with heavy-duty plastic, then adding layers of dirt and trash until the hole is filled.

“The EPA, the press, and other commentators have focused on the number of landfills, rather than on capacity, which was growing rapidly, and concluded that we were running out of space,” wrote Daniel K. Benjamin, a senior fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Mont., in his book "Recycling Myths Revisited."

From 1994 to 2001, no landfills were built in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

In the past 11 years, only two landfills have been developed, one in Lee County and another in Osceola County.

But there was a problem.

“What the EPA failed to notice was that landfills had gotten bigger faster, so that total landfill capacity was actually rising.” Benjamin said.

That’s now the conclusion of DEP, Florida’s top environmental agency, “On a statewide basis, there currently appears to be adequate landfill disposal capacity.”

DEP also says that in recent years the amount of trash in Florida has actually gone down, mostly due to greater efficiencies in industries that generate large quantities of discarded materials.

How much space is needed to deal with America’s garbage?

“Not much,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin calculates that if trash was stacked at 255 feet high, only about 10 square miles would be needed to store the country’s garbage for the next 100 years.

“Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch outside Bozeman, Mont., could handle all of America’s trash for the next century -- with 50,000 acres left over for his bison,” he said.

Contact Marianela Toledo en twitter @mtoledoreporter

Tags: Business, News

Comments (2)

12:01PM DEC 3RD 2013
Yes, more Mount Trashmores, so why not a whole mountain range of them to fill out the landscape in Florida (and I suggest starting with your backyard). . . . increased recycling, recover, reuse, and that hippie communistic composting, bad, bad . . . . . . we must be a throw-away society . . . only way to keep up our American economy . . . anything else is just un-American . . . . . after all, isn't that the right (far-right) thought process . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
8:50PM DEC 2ND 2013
I really enjoy reading SSN, but this is the dumbest article I've ever seen on here.

Really? Build more trash mountains is our trash solution in Florida? Right off the Turnpike where 10 million tourists drive everyday? Or better yet, spend billions of dollars hauling millions of tons of trash to Montana? You do no that the ones who generate the trash pay the ones who house the trash...and pay for the transport

Good Lord Waste Management must have written this piece of garbage. How about we cut down a little bit and recycle.

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