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Key Characteristics of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfill

Different types of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) landfill has different characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. The relative comparison of key characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) landfill are shown in a table below.

Municipal Solid Waste Type




Open dump
  • Poorly sited, Unknown capacity, no cell planning.
  • Little or on site preparation
  • No gas management
  • Only occasional cover
  • No compaction of waste
  • No fence, no record keeping
  • Waste picking and trading
  • Easy accessExtended lifetime
  • Low initial cost
  • Aerobic decomposition
  • Low cost, access to waste pickers
  • Materials recovery, income
  • Environmental contamination Overuse, many noxious sites
  • Unsightly, needs remediation
  • Water contamination
  • Risk of explosions
  • Vectors/ disease, shorter lifetime
  • Indiscriminate use, vermin
  • No record of landfill content,
  • Least efficient for material record


Controlled dump
  • Sited with respect to hydrogeology Planned capacity
  • No cell planning
  • Grading, drainage in site management
  • Partial leachate management
  • Partial or no gas management
  • Regular cover
  • Fence
  • Basic record keeping
  • Controlled waste picking and trading


  • Less risk environmental contamination Permits long term planning
  • Low initial cost
  • Easier rainfall runoff
  • Moderate cost
  • Extended lifetime
  • Controlled access and use
  • Materials recovery, income, lower risk to pickers
  • Perhaps less accessible, Perhaps environmental contamination
  • Slower decomposition, so total cost is high
  • Maintenance required
  • Harassment, possible displacement of pickers and buyers,
  • Fewer recyclable resources
Sanitary landfill
  • Site based on EnRA Planned capacity,
  • Designed cell development
  • Extensive site preparation
  • Full leachate and gas management Daily and final cover, compaction
  • Fence and gate
  • Record volume, type , source
  • No waste picking
  • Minimised environmental risk Permits long term planning
  • Reduce risk
  • Vector control, aesthetics
  • Extended lifetime
  • Secure access, gate records
  • Valuable information
  • Eliminate risk to pickers
  • Access, longer sitting process Cost, preparation time
  • Slower decomposition
  • Regular maintenance
  • Equipment use
  • Displacement of pickers and buyers
  • Loss of recyclable resources.