Coastal Landfill Questionnaire Launched

Our Coastal Landfill Working group, in collaboration with the Coastal Group Network, have launched a questionnaire for local authorities regarding coastal landfills in their area. If you would like to participate please click here to be taken directly to it.

The survey will take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. 

Purpose of questionnaire
The Local Government Association Special Interest Group (LGA Coastal SIG) and Coastal Group Network (CGN) are leading a Call to Arms around the topic of coastal landfill and contaminated land.

We are seeking input from Local Authorities who own, manage or are involved in the management of coastal landfill sites (including management of the shoreline, drainage, risks of flooding or erosion). We hope that by providing answers to the questions in this questionnaire you can help us generate a better evidence base around the nature of the issues being faced.

Landfill has been the foundation of waste management for over a century in the UK. The legacy of controlled tipping at the coast since the 1920’s came about because of the perceived low value of the natural environment at that time, alongside the lack of stringent regulation we see now. Using the coastal zone was therefore seen as a win/win scenario where our waste could be disposed of and land could be reclaimed for an alternative use.

It has been estimated that there are approximately 1200-1400 historic coastal landfill sites in the UK which are currently at risk of coastal erosion and flooding.

The issue
Sadly, the legacy left by rapid filling and closure of landfill sites, especially in areas of flood or erosion risk, is perhaps one of the most unappreciated but profound environmental issues of our time. Society faces technical challenges and moral accountability, but it is an issue accompanied by limited recognition (and funding). We have very little idea how risky these sites are because data is often unspecific.

The potential volume of waste and associated pollutants that could be released into the marine environment from these sites is vast, particularly in the case of vulnerable former landfill where existing coastal defences are aging or, worse still, were never put in place. Whilst the implications of flooding and erosion of these sites over the next century are difficult to predict, inevitably with climate change and sea level rise these risks (and consequent release of landfill) can be expected to increase significantly without intervention.

At present there is a limited grasp of what is within these coastal landfill sites. There is also minimal understanding of the potential consequences to people and the environment if the contents are left to leach or erode. Many landfill sites are also likely to contain early plastics which will persist and pollute the oceans for decades to come.

There is a need for a long-term plan that is technically feasible and affordable. The Shoreline Management Plans form the basis of sustainable coastal development, however at present, as far as protection of coastal landfill is concerned, they are aspirational as there is no appropriate funding mechanism to deliver many of the Hold The Line policies that have been set to avoid future pollution. Many landfill sites are undeveloped and hence do not qualify for Flood and Coastal Risk Management Grant in Aid funding (FCRM GiA), resulting in coastal defences being ‘patched up’ rather than undergoing major capital works. Furthermore, the sums of money required for capital works are high even for basic coast protection, and higher still (and increasingly uncertain) to remove and/or treat waste.

For any queries relating to this questionnaire please contact 

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