Disposal of solid wastes on land is by far the most common method and probably accounts for more than 90 % of the nation’s municipal refuse. Incineration accounts for most of the remainder, whereas composting of solid wastes accounts for only an insignificant amount.
Sanitary landfill is the cheapest satisfactory means of disposal, but only if suitable land is within economic range of the source of the wastes; typically, collection and transportation account for 75 % of the total cost of solid waste management. In a modern landfill, residue is spread in thin layers, each of which is compacted by a bulldozer before the next is spread. When about 3 meters of refuse has been laid down, it is covered by a thin layer of clean earth, which also is compacted. Pollution of surface and groundwater is minimized by lining and contouring the fill, compacting and planting the cover, selecting proper soil, diverting upland drainage, and placing wastes in sites not subject to flooding or high groundwater levels.
Gases are generated in landfills through anaerobic decomposition of organic solid waste. If a significant amount of methane is present, it may be explosive, proper venting eliminates this problem.
In incinerators of conventional design, refuse is burned on moving grates in refractory-lined chambers; combustible gases and the solids they carry are burned in secondary chambers. Combustion is 85 – 90 % complete for the combustible materials. In addition to heat , the products of incineration include the normal primary products of combustion- carbon dioxide and water- as well as oxides of sulphur and nitrogen and other gaseous pollutants; nongaseous products are fly ash and unburned solid residue. Emissions of fly ash and other particles are often controlled by wet scrubbers, electrostatic precipitators, and bag filters.
Composting operations of solid wastes include preparing refuse and degrading organic matter by aerobic microorganisms. Refuse is presorted, to remove materials that might have salvage value or cannot be composted, and is ground up to improve the efficiency of the decomposition process. The refuse is placed in long piles on the ground or deposited in mechanical systems, where it is degraded biologically to humus with a total nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium content of 1 to 3 % depending on the material being composted. After about three weeks, the product is ready for curing, blending with additives, bagging and marketing.
It involves a process called Pyrolysis, also called destructive distillation. In this process chemically decomposing of solid wastes is done by heat in an oxygen-reduced atmosphere. This result in a gas stream containing primarily hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and various other gases and inert ash, depending on the organic characteristics of the material being pyrolysed.