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Dear Compost Diva… What is Leachate?

diva4Dear Compost Diva,

I’m a college student. Last week during my environmental studies class my professor spent an entire lecture discussing landfills. Not only did he talk about them, but he also showed us some pretty graphic pictures of them too (Eeek!). I found the whole hour-long class to be overly disgusting and I attempted to tune out my professor’s ramblings by listening to music on my iPod. But my professor kept referring to this one specific word during his whole lecture. He said the word very loud and even my music could not drown him out. Eventually, the word began to peak my curiosity. The word he kept using was “leachate.” He repeated it so many times that it became engrained in my brain. To be honest, the word itself sounds so repulsive that I’m not sure if I want to know more about it. But I want to get your opinion. Is leachate really as horrible as it sounds?


A Grossed-Out College Student in Colorado


Dear Grossed-Out,

First of all, I made the mistake of reading your letter while I was happily eating a healthy breakfast of eggs laid by my very own urban chicken, milk that came from a local farmer, and strawberries that I grew in my backyard garden. It was delicious, scrumptious, and divine! But when I read your letter and saw those dreadful eight letters… “L-E-A-C-H-A-T-E,” I had to stop. My stomach started to hurt. I had to feed my wonderful meal to the cat. Every time I see or hear that word I feel nauseous for at least 24 hours. So “BOO” to you for bringing it up. But since you did, I suppose I will have to explain it in a bit more detail so you know better than to use the word around me again in the future.

Leachate is the most vile liquid that you can imagine. Sound intriguing? Try to envision a fluid that looks sickening, smells nauseating, and feels horrid (if you were senseless enough to touch it!). Got an image in your head? Good. Leachate is worse.

You see, landfills are packed with all sorts of disgusting waste products such as rotting food, chemicals, trash, dirty baby diapers, pesticides, scraps of metal, and everything else humans want to dump. When Mother Nature rains or snows, the moisture seeps into the earth and mixes with the buried contents. The liquid that develops as a result is called leachate.

Organizations that manage landfills (e.g. waste management companies) are responsible for ensuring that leachate is trapped by a barrier that will not allow the fluid to seep deep into the earth. If that were to happen, groundwater would become contaminated. Sometimes, however, no matter how high-level the preventative measures are, accidents happen. When leachate invades the earth, the environment suffers – right along with all of the earth’s ecosystems. The ramifications of a leachate breach are serious and can take many years to rectify – if the situation can be fixed at all!

So I’m sure that by now, you despise leachate as much as I do. Are you curious what can be done about it? To start, you can stop producing so much needless waste that will ultimately end up in a landfill. The Green Cycler is the perfect solution for all of your kitchen food scraps. It allows you to easily create a pre-compost material out of food items that you would normally throw in the trash or into your garbage disposal. Think of it this way… every food scrap you compost equals a smaller amount of leachate that might contaminate the environment! So what are you waiting for? Get yourself a Green Cycler!


Your Compost Diva

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