Are Landfills Filling Up/Overflowing, Will We Run Out Of Landfill Space, & How Much Space Do We Have Left?

Some reports have raised some concerns that the landfills we are currently using are filling up/overflowing, and there might not be enough space for landfills in the future.

In the guide below, we provide an overview of:

– Whether current landfills are filling up

– Whether we might run out of landfill space

– How much land we might have left for landfills in the future

– And, what might be done to address the ‘landfill space’ issue


Summary – Landfill Space & Capacity Across Society

Are Landfills Filling Up & Overflowing?

Different cities and States (or Provinces) within a country will have different answers to this question.

In the US, different States have different amounts of years left before estimates say that landfills will fill up.

However, these reports often don’t include changes in waste management behavior, or new capacity created by new landfills being set up.

So, there might be some variance in the true answer to this question on a State by State basis going into the future.


Will We Run Out Of Landfill Space?

There’s a range of factors relevant to any potential answer for this question.

We list those factors in the guide below.


How Much Land Do We Have Left For Landfills?

Again, the answer to this question in State dependent.

It also depends on how much land an individual State has available, and how much of that land is suitable for landfills and will be eligible to be approved under any landfill set up approval processes.

Some reports indicate that there is a significant amount of grazing land available in the US compared to the amount of waste produced.


Potential Solutions To Address Landfill Capacity & Space Issues

There might be a number of potential solutions to address landfill capacity and space issues. . 

The overall best approach to landfills might be to reduce or prevent rubbish from getting in landfills in the first place.

But, we list some other potential solutions in the guide below.


Are Landfills Full/Overflowing?

United States

According to the estimates below, how much space landfills have left might depend on the State.

In the US, some estimates indicate landfills could run out of space anywhere between 5 years time, to a few decades.

However, this is just for existing landfills in the way they are currently run.

It does not take into consideration new land becoming available, or new landfills being set up.

It also doesn’t take into account changes in the way we produce or process waste.


… the US is on pace to run out of room in [existing] landfills within 18 years (


… industry experts estimate that almost half the states throughout the U.S. will have space for a couple more decades, some will run out in as little as 5 years (


Will We Run Out Of Landfill Space?

Whether a particular city or town runs out of landfill space might depend on factors including but not limited to:

– How much land is available to establish new landfill sites

– How strict new landfill approval standards and procedures are

– The amount and type of waste that a city or town has to manage

The types of landfills themselves

– What landfill management practices involve (such as compressing/compacting waste, and so on)

– How long the landfill stays in operation

– Whether land can be rehabilitated and used as a landfill site again after a landfill comes to the end of it’s useful lifespan

What other waste management options a city or town has to manage waste

– Whether a city or town imports or exports certain types of waste


How Much Land Do We Have Left For Landfills?

United States

In America, as long as grazing land is available for new landfill sites, there appears to be enough land for new landfills for thousands of more years.

This is also dependent though upon that land being feasible for new landfill sites, and it being able to pass approval processes.


The claim that recycling is essential to avoid running out of landfill space is [not true], since all the stuff Americans throw away for the next 1,000 years would fit into “one-tenth of 1% of land available for grazing” (


Potential Solutions To Address Landfill Space Issues

When considering the amount of landfill space and land we have left, it’s important to take into account how changes in managing existing landfill sites and existing waste strategies might increase future landfill site capacity.

Some of the reports that provide estimates on landfill capacity or future land left don’t do this.

Some of the changes that might increase landfill waste capacity might include:

– Compact existing waste with compactors to free up space, or, shred waste to fit more waste into the same amount of space

– Consider how existing landfill types, designs and layouts can be more space efficient for waste

– Consider if burning/incinerating existing waste for energy is beneficial, as this allows more waste to be removed or kept out of landfills

– Reduce the amount of waste we generate in total

– Better dispose of waste at the household level to ensure less recyclable waste ends up in general waste streams and in landfill, and more of it ends up in recycling streams 

– Consider how more waste can end up in composting streams and composting sites instead of landfills … especially if a large share of municipal waste is organic waste like food waste or yard trimmings

– Consider if waste can be exported from States with little space, to States with more space


Further potential solutions to better managing the ‘landfill space/capacity issue’ might be:


Waste processors could begin burning more waste for energy (but there are air pollution concerns with this)

Making new landfills is a possible solution (but this can take time and money, and new landfills means more methane from decomposing organic waste)

The best solution is to decrease waste in the first place



Places like Sweden are actively importing waste to incinerate for energy.

They have developed technology which isn’t as harmful on the environment during incineration



Piggybacking landfill on top of existing landfill waste, and compacting existing landfill waste is an option to free up landfill space

There’s machinery that will compact the waste to about 800 kilograms per cubic metre

The best solution to the landfill space issue is to reduce waste generation in the first place



…. ultimate solution to the landfill issue is to reduce waste going to landfills, and divert as much waste as possible to recycling and composting [as long as it’s feasible and practical – depends on the type of waste, and local processing facilities and systems available too]












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