Compactonomics – Part 3
By Neal Bolton
The Bottom Line
We’re familiar with the ancient adage that all roads lead to Rome. But certainly when it comes to running a landfill, all roads eventually lead to the bottom line. In that regard, we asked the question, If you wanted to improve your site’s bottom line, where would you focus your effort?
Over three-fourths of those surveyed listed waste compaction as number one. This was followed by cover-soil ratio and labor reductions. Not entirely surprising, litter ranked last, but liner construction costs, closure funding, and engineering costs also received low priority.
Mickey Ceorli, landfill compactor specialist for Bomag/Compaction America in Kewanee, IL, states, “Our clients are becoming more sophisticated. They’re looking for more of a turnkey arrangement. Leasing is becoming more important as a means of avoiding the hassle of buyback agreements and resale. Of course, cost is a major consideration too. A landfill can lease a machine without tying up as much money as it would with an outright purchase.” Ceorli’s assessment was mirrored in comments received from other manufacturers in the landfill compactor business.
Certainly this trend has some positives. The landfill industry is maturing. We’ve fought off the attack of disposable diapers and survived ravages of the barge-spawned “landfill crisis.” Landfills that are still in business have in one way or another brought themselves into conformance with Subtitle D and its offspring. And now, after some major asset reshuffling, landfill owners are focusing on the business of running a landfill. But are we leaving something behind even as we, in many ways, move ahead? Maybe so.
Focusing on the Near Term
Have you heard the story about the guy who was hungry so he went to town to get something to eat? On the way he stopped at the hardware store, where he became so preoccupied in all the stuff on sale that he forgot he was hungry, spent all his time and money on tools, then got all the way home before he realized he’d forgotten to eat.
In terms of landfill compaction, our industry is in many ways focusing so much on the short-term bottom line that we’re forgetting why we came to town in the first place.
Jim Caron, president of Caron Compactor Company in Modesto, CA, says, “Today, at many landfills, airspace isn’t perceived to be as critical as it once was. Many landfill operators are looking for increased equipment life and long-term warranties. We’ve met them by developing new products. Even so, we’ve got to remember that landfills are still in the business of selling airspace.”
For the landfill that has no development costs and unlimited life, it’s hard to argue that increasing compaction saves airspace and money that’s so far out in the future that it has little value right now, today. Basic economics tell us that there is indeed a time value of money. Also, if your landfill is in a very competitive marketplace, it’s vital that you manage your short-term expenses or you might not be in business next year.
But for landfills that are spending big bucks on permitting, design, liner construction, and closure, even in the short term time is money. Ken Pratt, president of Al-jon in Ottumwa, IA, says, “A customer who buys a compactor from us is really buying time.” Pratt affirms the short-term view of the industry, however. “It’s not uncommon for a customer to ask, ‘I may not have a job next year. What can you do for me this year?’”
As a landfill-operations consultant, it’s sad to see a landfill having to build a liner this year because it missed next year’s construction season by two or three months. In many of those cases, that extra two to three months is sitting right there in the middle of the operation, hidden in lost compaction and mismanaged airspace.
While doing landfill audits, it’s common for consultants to find examples of poor compaction and excessive use of cover soil that end up robbing a landfill’s capacity by as much as 20%. That translates directly to an increase in liner and closure costs. For the manager who wants immediate results, there they are.
Contact us at 209.742.2398
Connect with us online (click on an icon to visit our social media profiles):