Until the end of the 1960s the waste was mainly disposed in a multitude of small dumps all over Germany and the amount of waste was roughly estimated to 9 to 18 million tonnes per year. The first aim was to close a number of small dumps in order to establish a controllable network of disposal areas. A further target was to avoid the dangerous impact of gas-emissions and contaminated water through landfills on the health of human and animal populations.
Those demands were finally incorporated into law when the Waste Disposal Act of 1972 was passed. The original number of 50,000 landfills was reduced down to 560 landfills by 1993 (UMWELTBUNDESAMT 1997) and the technological standards improved significantly. Despite the fact that today’s landfill technology has advanced to the sophisticated multi-barrier concept intended to safeguard the environment and the public for a certain period of time, the functioning of the barrier system cannot be guaranteed over the long term (BILITEWSKI et al. 1997).
Besides the landfills which handle about 70% of the municipal solid waste (MSW) without prior treatment the numbers of incinerators in Germany increased to 51 by 1996, the number of organic waste composting plants rose to 386 by 1995 and by 1996 ten mechanical-biological treatment plants were in use, one in its construction phase and ten more in the planning phase (UMWELTBUNDESAMT, 1997).