RIVM and ECN have developed an innovative assessment framework for testing the environmental effects on soil and groundwater of leachate water from sustainable landfill sites. The Netherlands is the first country to attempt sustainable landfill management on such a large scale in three pilot projects.

The new assessment framework is based on environmental quality criteria. With this framework testing values for leachate water could be determined for the protection of groundwater and surface water immediately adjacent to landfill sites. Unique is that the specific characteristics of the soil, groundwater and landfill site could be taken into account, leaving room for custom-made calculations. The framework was developed in the context of a GreenDeal between the government (Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and several Dutch provinces), science (RIVM and ECN) and landfill operators.

Sustainable landfill management

Sustainable landfill management is an innovative new method for dealing with landfill sites. This involves treating the waste in landfill sites with water and air. In the resultant processes, any hazardous substances are either broken down or they become bound to the waste. It is believed that little, if any, of these substances will emerge from the landfill site, so the soil and groundwater are effectively protected. At international level, research into sustainable landfill management began as long ago as the 1990s.

The landfill sites at Braambergen (Almere), Kragge II (Bergen op Zoom) and Wieringermeer (Middenmeer) are being considered for the pilot projects. The pilot projects will continue for at least ten years. At the end of this period, the assessment framework will be used to determine whether the desired environmental result has been achieved. The results can then be used by policymakers to determine allowing sustainable landfill management to be introduced elsewhere in the Netherlands.

Current landfill policy

Under current landfill policy, pollutants are not broken down, instead they are completely encased in airtight and watertight materials to prevent the dispersion of leachate into the soil and groundwater. However, insulation materials (liners) need to be regularly replaced and at considerable costs, because of its limited life span.