Compaction and Airspace: The Keys to Landfill Profitability

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The business of landfills is air, selling empty space to be filled with solid waste, and in this industry not all air is equal. Landfills have the unique ability of being able to modify the lifespan of their product without changing the amount of product they started with.  It all comes down to compaction. Volume may be fixed, but density is not, and the more solid waste you can fit into a given volume, the more valuable that space is. That is why it is absolutely necessary to have an accurate and reliable way of tracking the change in the volume of solid waste before and after compaction.

One of the newest and most helpful technologies being used to measure compaction ratios and airspace utilization is Mobile Mapping, also known as 3D laser scanning or ground-based LiDAR. By scanning an active fill area at two different points in time to obtain a fill volume and then dividing the weight of the waste received by that fill volume during the period, accurate densities can easily be calculated.

Topo Changes

Active Fill Area: Updated surface (colored) on original surface (grey)

Mobile mapping provides the accuracy and data density of an aerial flyover, with the mobility and flexibility of a ground survey. Benefits include:

  • Cost Effective – Focusing on active fill areas reduces the time and cost of updating operations
  • Scalable – Project coverage areas ranging from ¼ acre to 500+ acres using the exact same technology
  • Efficient – Much higher data acquisition rate, up to 36,000 points per second, compared to manual surveying
  • Accurate – A typical point cloud contains millions of measured points, with real coordinates, providing  detailed terrain modeling
  • ProtectionStay in compliance with design requirements from regulatory agencies.  Problems can now be identified and fixed before they become expensive and time-consuming to repair

Mobile Mapping makes tracking compaction ratios and airspace utilization more efficient than ever.  Results can usually be delivered within a week of the initial data collection survey. Having accurate volume measurements performed regularly and reported quickly allows landfill operators to maximize the space they have available, which is the most influential and most controllable variable for increasing profitability of a landfill.

Firmatek’s 3D mobile mapping provides clients with a wealth of fast, dependable information to better manage, predict and plan the operation of their landfills. And all of this comes without the need for managers to purchase additional equipment or software, hire additional personnel or pay for specialized training.

The May 2011 issue of MSW Management, the solid waste industry journal, features a cover article detailing the importance and subsequent profit potential of managing and regularly monitoring compaction in solid waste landfills, the article can be found here: