Segments in this Video

The Secret Life of Landfill: Introduction (02:29)


There are more than 20,000 landfills in the UK; over 12 million tons of household waste is buried each year. Dr. George McGavin will search through garbage to provide archaeologists with information about how modern people live.

Understanding the Landfill (04:39)

Journalist Dr. McGavin and Material Scientist Zoe Laughlin follow a waste management team through the trash processing cycle at the Edinburgh landfill. They begin by surveying how much waste is produced by Edinburgh and the UK daily. Employees explain how the dump stabilizes the loose waste into solid mounds.

History of Human Waste (05:44)

Dr. McGavin travels to Great Yarmouth. Laughlin studies how modern trash mixes in the landfill. In the 1890s, the town disposed of its holiday season trash on the beaches; a team of excavators led by Dr. Tom Risens digs up and examines trash from the 1800s in Yarmouth.

Waste Compression Safety (09:39)

Leachate leaks out of landfills into soil. Dr. McGavin meets with the site manager to understand how this toxic substance is kept out of the water table. He travels to Thames Estuary to survey a second landfill dig from the 1950s and meets with Environmental Geochemist Professor Kate Spencer.

Plastic and the Environment (07:49)

The scientists dive deeper into their research on the effects of garbage by studying the side effects of burying garbage in modern times and what it says about the future. Dr. McGavin explores plant-based alternatives to some of the world's most dangerous pollutants—plastic bags.

Uses of Decomposition (12:10)

Dr. McGavin visits a beach where inventor Brian Harper has been collecting dog feces to power a street light with methane. Laughlin and Dr. McGavin travel back to the landfill in order to understand how non-food waste and materials other than plastics breakdown over time.

Function of Recycling (10:25)

Dr. McGavin explains the solution to the landfill problem would be to dig up and recycle materials from existing landfills. To demonstrate the efficacy of this theory, Laughlin digs up a portion of the landfill; she goes on to break apart several disposed of iPhones.

Future of Recycling (05:33)

Dr. McGavin learns the amount of unclassified DNA that has evolved in the landfill environment. The team analyzes pieces of trash dating to when humanity began making rapidly disposable items; humans should either waste less or make materials with quick use in mind.

Credits: The Secret Life of Landfill (00:38)

Credits: The Secret Life of Landfill

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The Secret Life of Landfill

Part of the Series : The Secret Life of Landfill
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



In a unique science "experiment," Dr. George McGavin and Material Scientist Zoe Laughlin tell the extraordinary history of rubbish and explore how what we throw away tells us about the way we live our lives. With unprecedented access to one of the UK’s largest landfill sites, the team of experts spends 3 days carrying out tests all over the site revealing the secret world of rubbish. They also carry out three other "archaeological" digs into historic landfills to chart the evolution of our throwaway society. Ultimately, their quest is to discover if the stuff we throw away today has any value for tomorrow’s world?

Length: 60 minutes

Item#: BVL169038

ISBN: 978-1-64481-756-8

Copyright date: ©2018

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.