Airspace is the primary asset of any landfill owner. Consider all of the factors that impact the value of that airspace. There is price of the property along with the costs of permitting, grading, road construction, pond construction, liner installation, leachate collection system installation and a host of other infrastructure expenses. Then there are the operational costs associated with that airspace, such as leachate collection, transport and treatment; equipment expenses; labor costs; host fees; repair and maintenance costs; and power expenses. And let’s not forget the closure and post-closure costs that factor into the value of this commodity. All in all, airspace is a pretty pricy asset.

This article will help landfill owners and operators manage their facilities to meet their needs for as long as possible. Some owners will have different perspectives on the lives of their assets. A private company may want to take in as much waste as it can in as short a period of time as possible. This maximizes revenue while minimizing the time frame during which many operational expenses are incurred. A government-owned facility is typically providing a service to community residents. Given the cost of these assets, owners of these facilities want to make them last as long as possible in order to serve their communities and minimize further capital expenditures. Many of the activities discussed in this article are applicable to both groups, but some will only make sense to the owners of public facilities.

Of course, managing airspace begins with an efficient site design. The investment in equipment and labor at your site will reap much greater rewards if you begin with an optimized airspace design.

The most efficient design is a rectangular shape. The site owner must work closely with the engineer to make sure that the design and permit allow for the maximum volume of airspace per acre of lined footprint. A rule of thumb is a minimum of 100,000 cubic yards of airspace for each lined acre.

Design features can be incorporated that will greatly expand site capacity. A mechanically stabilized earth berm can be designed and constructed around the landfill footprint to allow significant increases in depth and capacity. Waste depth across the facility can be increased by 50 feet or more with this type of construction. This technique is extremely valuable for facilities with no lateral room for expansion.

Landfill owners also can maximize their airspace management by making sure they follow some basic daily operational techniques. If you already have the proper equipment on hand, these techniques typically require more discipline than dollars. Furthermore, there are some technologies that not only extend the life of your landfill, but also can open up another source of revenue.