By Ally Ruchman, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School
When you think of a landfill, you usually think of a dirty, smelly place where our trash gets deposited. You probably think this is a place that should be avoided and reformed because it's destroying our planet. But with the Semaku Landfill facility, Singapore is trying to change the way we think of landfills. Sure we've heard of covered landfills turned into parks, but active landfills?
The Semaku Landfill facility was created by joining the land between two close islands to create a space about the size of Central Park. The sea wall is comprised of clay, rock, and sand, and there is a geomembrane made of polyethylene to prevent leakage. The perimeter of the membrane is 7 kilometers long and impermeable.
But how can an active landfill also be a nature preserve? Everyday, the facility receives over 1400 tons of incineration ash and over 600 tons of non-incinerable waste. The waste is then compacted and stored in specialized cells, located all over the island. Great care is taken to make sure that the landfill remains odor-free and aesthetically pleasing. Yet while these activities are occuring, school groups come to wade in the tidal pools and astronomers come to stargaze. There is actually a four month waiting list just to enter the island!
Singapore's dedication to preserving biodiversity at the landfill is amazing. There are over 700 types of plants and animals found at the landfill -- including a few endangered species. The perimeter was even altered to allow some mangrove forests access to the water during the changing tides.
Semakau Landfill is an extraordinary example of how we can turn something negative into something positive. Countries all over the world should embrace the idea of an active landfill park. Perhaps Semakau is redefining the future, and one day will be an example of what all landfills will become.
Ally Ruchman is a senior at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School in Rumson, NJ. She loves animals, reading, science, and traveling.