Bisasar Road

Location: Durban, South Africa Size: 109 acres (1 acre = 4,840 square yards) Date opened: 1980 Waste processed daily: 5,000 tons Bad rep: Located on the site of a once rich nature reserve, the Bisasar landfill was never set up to properly address the release of harmful gases, heavy metals or other types of carcinogenic pollutants. Consequently, toxic air emissions as well as water- and soil-transmitted pollutants have exposed local residents to record rates of cancer and other serious ailments. Eco-distinction: Each month, well beyond 3 million Nm3 of landfill-generated methane is combusted in order to create electricity (and carbon credits).

Deonar Landfill

Location: Mumbai, India Size: 300+ acres Date opened: 1927 Waste processed daily: 2,200 tons Bad rep: Typically, landfills reach maximum capacity within the span of three decades before they are closed. Deonar, however, continues going the distance (80+ years and running), the unfortunate result being that some areas within the site tower as high as nine-story buildings. Additionally, its too-close-for-comfort location next to multiple residential areas has resulted in soaring respiratory issues among the population. Eco-distinction: In response to the ongoing Deonar debacle, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is in the process of creating a material recovery facility — the first of its kind in Mumbai — that is expressly designed to process recyclable material.

Jardim Gramacho

Location: Rio de Janeiro Size: 321 acres (equivalent to approximately 247 football fields) Date opened: 1978 Waste processed daily: 8,000 tons Bad rep: On the verge of closing, this decades-old landfill, created on biodiverse wetlands, has long been referred to as an “environmental crime” because liquid waste continues polluting nearby Guanabara Bay. Eco-distinction: Jardim Gramacho was featured in Lucy Walker’s Waste Land, a film that documented the lives of several catadores (garbage pickers) and the efforts of artist Vik Muniz to transform their future through the creation of larger-than-life recycled waste portraits.

Puente Hills Landfill

Location: Whittier, CA Size: 700 acres (640 acres = 1 square mile/1,760 yards/5,280 feet) Date opened: 1957 Waste processed daily: Up to 13,200 tons! Bad rep: On track to officially close in 2013, America’s largest landfill purportedly soars as high as a skyscraper and can be seen quite effortlessly via Google Earth. Eco-distinction: This waste facility, like so many others included in this article, harvests methane released from landfill trash and then burns the gas in order to provide green electricity for 70,000+ local residents. Interestingly, Puente Hills also funds The Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Preservation Authority. Among its most well-intentioned projects, various wildlife corridors were created for the safe passage of animals in heavily trafficked areas, but alas, high casualty rates have yielded far more criticism for the effort than applause.

Laogang Landfill

Location: Shanghai, China Size: 1,000+ acres Date opened: 1990 Waste processed daily: 10,000 tons Bad rep: Not content to remain on land, the Laogang Landfill continues creeping closer toward the ocean thanks to the diligent efforts of workers entrusted with the task of creating ever-expanding waste accommodating dams. Eco-distinction: Laogang’s ongoing methane-gas-to-energy project, the largest in China, utilizes 12 electricity-generating, methane-fueled turbines constructed by Veolia Green Technology.

Apex Regional Landfill

Location: Las Vegas Size: 2,300 acres Date opened: 1993 Waste processed daily: 9,000 tons Bad rep: Blame booming Sin City construction for all-time sky-high rates of waste disposal at this particular landfill — an astounding 15,000 tons every single day during 2007 and 2008. Eco-distinction: Quite recently, Apex Regional finally greened up its act by unveiling a 12-megawatt power station that will ultimately generate enough incinerated waste-to-energy to keep 10,000 residents powered up.

Sudokwon Landfill

Location: Incheon, South Korea Size: 5,130 acres Date opened: 1992 Waste processed daily: 13,500 tons Bad rep: Compared to other waste facilities of its size, Sudokwon Landfill, which was constructed with little forethought and poor execution, is continually blamed for the release of excess leachate into the surrounding environment. Eco-distinction: Sudokwon is home to the largest gas power plant in the world, generating enough energy to power 180,000+ households. Additionally, previously closed sections of the landfill are now being converted in a comprehensive, environmental-themed park complex.