Waste disposal practices have changed substantially over the past 40 years. Much of the unwanted material households and businesses produce returns to productive use through recycling and composting and beneficial use. Hazardous wastes are carefully separated for special handling. Businesses have reduced the waste they generate. Still, it is necessary to landfill solid wastes for which no recycling or reuse is currently available.
Today, solid waste landfills in Wisconsin are professionally designed, constructed and operated to minimize the risk of pollution. There are now fewer than 80 active landfills in the state, compared to thousands of town dumps and other disposal sites a few decades ago. The DNR regulates landfills to prevent negative impacts to people and the environment. Landfills must collect and treat liquids and gases they generate before releasing them to the environment. Landfill operators must monitor their facilities to detect any contamination, report monitoring data to the DNR and respond quickly to any problems. Money is set aside during landfill operation to ensure that monitoring and maintenance continue after the landfill closes. DNR staff inspect landfills regularly.