Landfill bulldozer horizon

The kids are back at school and I’ve settled into a fall routine. While I may not be in a classroom, I’m still learning a lot! I’ve attended a recycling conference and talked with many waste management professionals. Without further delay, here are 7 key lessons I’ve learned about waste management.

No. 1 – Airspace is valuable

The cost of a cubic meter of airspace in a landfill is approximately $100. There are 3 key variables affecting airspace value :

  • What type(s) of waste does the landfill accept.
  • Where is the landfill located?
  • How much life does the landfill have left?

The value of airspace is also determined by including costs such as, operating, closure, and post closure costs. Regardless of how managers are calculating airspace value, it’s not cheap. For these reasons, maximizing airspace use and compacting waste are best practices at landfills.

No. 2 – Compaction Matters

Because of No. 1 above, better waste compaction leads to more sustainable operations and longer life. There are many compaction solutions but the two common ones are:

  • Construction packers
  • Giant shredders that will turn your old mattress into confetti.

Landfills are spending big money on compaction tools. But, they are not testing compaction frequently.

No. 3 – Regulatory Reporting.

Requirements for existing landfills vary widely. Each landfill obtains a unique approval and each approval has different wording. Some older and smaller landfills don’t report the amount of airspace used or density of waste. Usually the minimum requirement is an annual topographic survey.

No. 4 – Location Location Location.

The final location of waste in a landfill can matter when people want it back. Yes. That happens! Landfill operators can be forced to go and dig up their landfill. Multiple landfills have been dug up for criminal investigations. In other situations landfills are excavated, to find toxic waste that should never have gone to that landfill. Having regular drone survey records, to know where to look can save time and money.

No. 5 – Fire in the hole.

Landfill fires have always been a risk because of the heat from decomposing garbage. Now, the increased use of lithium-ion batteries, has escalated the fire risk dramatically. Recent high profile landfill fires have brought this issue to the forefront. Thermal drone imaging can save millions of dollars by providing early detection.

The weight of machinery driving over a cell phone or tablet, embedded in a pile of garbage, is enough to cause a small explosion

Marc Morgan – Solid Waste manager

No. 6 – Surveying Landfills is No Fun.

Using conventional survey GPS to walk all over an active landfill is dull, dangerous and dirty. This use-case is a great situation to replace conventional surveys with drone surveys. Not only will the surveying be 10 times faster, it’ll be safer too.

No. 7 – Not in My Back Yard.

Finding new landfill locations is difficult and expensive. Sometimes it’s downright impossible to make a new landfill. Because no one wants a landfill in their backyard, or their neighbors yard, waste management companies all over the world are changing the way they operate. They must fit more waste into less airspace.

I trust this list has been interesting and informative. It’s been fascinating learning.
Thank-you to the professional who took time to answer my many questions, show me their facilities and teach me. Looking forward to continuing to learn over the coming weeks and months.