Today, the number of operational landfills has shrunk to fewer than 2,000 from more than 7,600 in the 1980s. Seven states are projected to run out of landfill space in the next five years, one state will reach capacity in five to 10 years and three states have 11 to 20 years to go, according to estimates from Bryan Staley, PhD, PE, president and chief executive officer of the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF). There are just 22 states that have available landfill space for decades to come. So, as a result, Staley says he estimates that the U.S. has about 62 years of combined landfill capacity remaining in its current facilities.
The question becomes where will America’s waste go? Sure, part of the solution lies in the ability of the U.S. to continue to increase recycling and recovery rates. But there will always be a need for landfills. However, as landfills continue to close, waste will increasingly have to travel longer distances to reach the remaining active landfills. While trucks will remain an option, another long-discussed solution, waste-by-rail, could end up being an ideal solution.
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