According to the US EPA, the material most frequently encountered in MSW landfills is plain old paper-it accounts for more than 40 percent of a landfill’s contents. Newspapers alone can take up as much as 13 percent of the space in US landfills.
Biodegradable materials, including paper, do not easily decompose once they are disposed of in a landfill. Paper is many times more resistant to deterioration when compacted in a landfill than when it is in open contact with the atmosphere. A study by William Rathje, who runs the Garbage Project, has shown that, when excavated from a landfill, newspapers from the 1960s can be intact and readable.