In 2015, the Lebanese government closed the only landfill site in Beirut without putting an alternative in place. Huge piles of rubbish started building up in the city © Getty Images

How long until we run out of landfill space?

Filling up your landfill is something that strikes fear into the heart of any Sim City fan – unless, of course, you have budget for recycling.

Asked by: Caroline Smith, London


In the UK, estimates typically range from six to eight years. But local authorities have been saying this since at least 2010 and we aren’t there yet. This is because EU directives have steadily increased the landfill tax, so councils have been driven to recycle more and more of their waste. In 2009, 90 per cent of our rubbish went to landfill. It’s less than 50 per cent now and forecast to drop to 10 per cent by 2020.


Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.