There are many techniques used to reduce the smell that comes from landfills. Plastic membrane and clay are used to seal open areas of a landfill. Gas collection wells can be added at strategic points in the landfill to help trap the smell. These wells can act as a vacuum for the gas if the rest of the landfill is sealed off. A more simple solution to the smelly problem is to simply build the landfills away from residential housing and public areas.
The primary methods used to control odor at landfills are daily cover (see citation #1) and landfill gas control (see citation #2).
Daily cover involves placing soil, organic matter, or other materials and sometimes chemical controls over each day’s loading of waste in order to prevent odors from escaping and help break down odor-forming compounds by oxidizing them as they move through soil. Placing tarps or geosynthetic membranes (usually made from high-grade high-density polyethylene plastic) over the landfill can also help to contain odors, since they form an airtight barrier over the waste.
Gas control can be either passive or active, and it involves diverting and sometimes collecting and destroying odoriferous compounds through a system of wells and piping, and ultimately burning the gas either in a flare or in an internal combustion engine or gas turbine to recover the energy content of the gas (which is roughly 50% methane, on average).
However, while these methods usually work, even the best landfill practices may not always be entirely sufficient to control odors under just the wrong conditions, and one can find many stories from seasoned landfill managers of odors that simply refuse to behave!
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