Sanitary Landfills are considered the last available option for material disposal

TARGET USERS: Businesses, Industry, Government

KEY CONSIDERATIONS: Sanitary Landfills should be used as a last resort for the disposal of materials, in accordance with the Waste Hierarchy.




    Open dumpsites pose a significant risk to public health and the environment. With few engineering measures in place, these disposal sites can contaminate groundwater and surface water, pollute the air, attract insects, vermin and other potential carriers of diseases, devalue properties and a host of other negative impacts. These disposal sites are one of the largest sources of potential pollution to the communities hosting them.



    Solid waste management is one of the basic services provided by local government units (LGUs) to the public, and disposal is one of the more critical aspects since it has a great potential to impact the public health and the environment. Thus, there is an urgent need to build the institutional and technical capabilities of local governments to address this need. Upgrading Open Dump sites to Controlled Disposal Facilities and further to Sanitary Landfills requires appropriate planning and resources.


    1. Upgrading of an Open Dump into a Controlled Disposal Facility

    As with the closure of open dumpsites, upgrading into controlled disposal will require planning. A site assessment has to be conducted first in order to determine if the open dumpsite is convertible to a controlled dump. If conversion is not practical based on several criteria/considerations, a new site will have to be developed.

    Development of a controlled dump on a new site has to comply with several criteria such as siting and design requirements. Because of the minimal infrastructure requirements for controlled dumps (e.g. no liner with required permeability), finding a site with suitable hydrogeologic conditions is essential. Preparation of the disposal area mainly involves the provision of adequate gradient, minimal compaction of the soil, and the construction of drainage management systems.

    Conversion of an open dump into a controlled dump means that disposal will be on a site previously used for open dumping. Thus, preparation of the area will consist of leveling and compacting existing garbage heaps and construction of drainage canals/ ditches, among others.

    Prescribed operational procedures include limiting the working face area, application of daily cover and miscellaneous provisions such as installation of litter barrier and others. The facility is also monitored for incoming waste volumes, water quality, condition of drainage systems, and others.


    2. Shifting from Controlled Dumping to Sanitary Landfilling

    This stage is the most demanding for LGUs in terms of financial resources, technology, and expertise. The development of these disposal facilities requires thorough planning and design, from its inception to its planned after use. Siting, design, construction and operation requirements are much more broad and stringent than other modes of land disposal. Sanitary landfills have the least impact to public health and the environment as compared to open dumpsites or controlled disposal facilities.

    The Cost of Waste Disposal.

    Waste disposal cost can be categorized into capital and operating costs. The former includes costs for land acquisition, machinery and equipment, designers/consultants fees, site preparation and construction, and closure and post closure requirements. Operational costs are associated with the daily operational requirements of the facility, including salaries, maintenance costs, and others. These are generally recovered through tipping fees.

    Public Participation.

    The involvement of communities impacted by a proposed project is essential to the project’s realization and success. The decision to develop waste disposal facilities is not only for a few to make but for all who will be affected by it. Thus, decision makers and planners should involve all stakeholders right from the siting process up to the facility’s post closure phase. Otherwise, there may be problems during the facility’s construction and operation, or the project may not materialize due to public opposition.

    Source: United Nations Environment Programme, 2005;



    Sanitary landfilling is considered the last resort, and the final disposal option inline with the Waste Management Hierarchy.



    See case study examples on page 54 of the UN Report entitled “Closing of an Open Dumpsite and Shifting from Open Dumping to Controlled Dumping and to Sanitary Landfilling”

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