Landfill Airspace Utilization: Measurement and Management

Publish Date: 2005

Landfill airspace can be defined as the volume of space on a landfill site which is permitted for thedisposal of municipal solid waste (MSW). This space is initially occupied by air which will eventually be displaced by the disposed waste — hence the term “landfill airspace.”

In the provision of solid waste disposal services, landfill airspace is depleted by being filled up with waste. Private-sector landfill managers are, in a sense, in the business of selling landfill airspace. In the case of public-sector landfill managers, landfill airspace represents a community resource to be wisely and economically used.

The SWANA Applied Research Foundation’s (ARF) Year 4 (FY2005) Disposal Group identified the issue of the measurement and management of landfill airspace utilization as one of high importance to the group.

Specifically, the ARF Disposal Group felt that research was needed on the establishment of airspace utilization measurement standards as well as proven techniques and cost-effective methods to minimize the landfill airspace occupied by the landfilled waste as well as by daily and intermediate cover material.

Landfill airspace utilization is defined by one member of the ARF Disposal Group as “tons of waste in the gate (over a specified time period) divided by the cubic yards of airspace consumed.” At a landfill operated by another member of the ARF Disposal Group, the latest measurement of landfill airspace utilization came in at 912 pounds per cubic yard. How does this number compare to other landfills of similar size? What effect does compaction equipment, pre-processing, and cover material have on airspace utilization? What is considered an acceptable airspace utilization factor? What works and does not work in trying to minimize landfill airspace utilization? These are the types of questions that were identified by the ARF Disposal Group as needing answers.

This report presents the results of a year-long investigation into the topic of measuring and managing landfill airspace utilization. This report was prepared by the SWANA ARF staff with input and guidance provided by the ARF Disposal Group Subscribers.

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