Trash to Treasure: Transforming Landfills into Usable Land

Many people think of landfills as far away places where their trash inevitably meets its end. There’s been a lot of talk about the impact of landfills on our environment – their effects on our ozone layer, the destruction of ecosystems, and the loss of clean land are all valid concerns when thinking about the future uses of landfills. While old landfills have long been left to stabilize and wait for the small possibility of being chosen as a site to build a golf course or park, some developers are thinking of new ways to transform this forgotten land into new in-demand spaces. But what kind of challenges would builders face repurposing these sites? Here’s a look into the steps of transforming a landfill into safe, usable land.

While building on landfills isn’t necessarily a new idea, each new project introduces new challenges for developers. Engineers need to consider regulatory factors, public health and safety, risk management, and environmental health when thinking about redeveloping a former landfill. While there are many challenges, these vast areas of land hold much potential.

Site Prep

One of the primary challenges of redeveloping a landfill for commercial or residential use is preparing the site for development. If remediation and site preparation is done correctly, a former landfill can be a great chunk of land for a future neighborhood or commercial building. Due to the the type of waste in a landfill, contractors need to deal with gases from the site and subsidence, or the settling of land as waste decomposes. When waste sinks, depressions develop on the site surface and a type of liquid, known as leachate, carries contaminants through the surrounding soil and groundwater. Vapors from decomposing waste material also carry through surrounding soil and out of the ground. When there’s no building on the site, this gas releases into the air, but if the gas is unable to escape, it creates a dangerous buildup.

To combat these risks, contractors create a pathway for gas to escape using a permeable layer of gravel and then by installing a membrane under a building slab. The gas is then piped from underneath the building and released at rooftop level to mitigate the vapors. To combat the waste, developers attempt to consolidate it away from where the buildings are being constructed. If they’re unable to do so, builders must anchor the foundation into the solid ground that’s deep beneath the waste.


Many people turn away from the idea of developing a former landfill simply because of the time it takes to get the proper approvals to move forward. Finding the ways to repurpose a landfill safely and cost-effectively takes time.

Alternative Uses

The first thing many people think of when developing a landfill is using it for a commercial or residential property, but it can often be used for many other things too. A big use for landfills is installing solar panels on top of them. While the environmental risk and location of landfills are all factors that must be considered, many solar investors see it as a great use of underutilized land. These sites are also great spots for parks, golf courses, race tracks, and other outdoor activities.

Public Relations

Another big challenge of developing landfills is the public pushback. Oftentimes people don’t understand that there are engineered solutions to developing a former landfill. The redevelopment allows for an installation of greater environmental controls than what’s formally in place and can even be more protective of the environment than if the site isn’t developed.

As your Melbourne commercial contractor, we understand what it takes to conduct proper due diligence on a site. There’s many steps that need to be taken to ensure that a potential site will be able to fit a developer’s needs and pass through a maze of regulation. Carefully evaluating a site to meet the client needs, environmental and safety standards, and project budget is an essential part of a successful build. We’re proud to offer professional engineering and project management services to help create a streamlined and cost efficient design and build process for our clients. To learn more about our engineering and design services, explore our website or contact our team today!


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