The International Information Center for Geotechnical Engineers

Biodegradation in Municipal Solid Waste landfills


Waste material is an unavoidable by-product of human activities. Economic development, urbanization and improved living standards in cities increase the quantity and complexity of generated solid waste. If not managed properly, it leads to degradation of urban environment, puts strain on natural resources and leads to health problems. Landfills represent an environmentally acceptable disposal method of municipal solid waste on ground. They are engineered structures consisting of bottom liners, leachate collection and removal systems, and final covers (Figure 1).



Fig. 1 A typical modern landfill (Vesilind et al. 2002)

Estimation of long-term settlement in landfills is important for the design, construction, and maintenance as well as an integral part toward final closure of a site and its ultimate usage of MSW landfills (EI-Fadel and AI-Rashed 1998). Settlement prediction in landfills is complex and less understood compared to settlement in coarse- or fine-grained soils primarily because of the complex biodegradation process, heterogeneous nature of MSW, variable size, variable density, and different compression characteristics of waste (Wall and Zeiss 1995).The operation of an engineered landfill requires extensive knowledge of the different processes which occurs simultaneously in MSW during settlement.


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