Compactonomics – Part 4
By Neal Bolton
Studying and Increasing Compaction
Does this mean that many landfill managers sacrifice density in exchange for a short-term payback? Yep. Does this trend toward short-term planning mean that landfill managers have forgotten density? Not at all. Compaction is still a major issue. It’s the mother of all operational yardsticks. Sharp landfill managers have always known it.
Most of the managers we surveyed spend considerable time evaluating and trying to increase compaction. It’s just that when it comes to revenues and expenses, if it doesn’t have a quick payback, it’s not going to receive much support in terms of financial investment.
In our survey we asked: “In regard to your regular schedule, how much time do you spend studying, measuring, tracking, or finding ways to increase compaction?” On the average, the managers surveyed spend slightly over 5% of their time on compaction. Their responses ranged from less than 1% of their time to “an hour per day or more” spent on compaction. How much time do you spend studying, measuring, or increasing compaction?
The bottom line is that compaction is still important. Landfill managers know it. But if they want to be around long enough to do something about it, they’ve got to be competitive—even to the point of giving up short-term density for cost savings.
It may not be the ideal situation, but it’s where we are. That being the case, the burden is on the machine manufacturers to do more. Doing more means providing durable equipment that compacts well; selling, financing, or leasing equipment for reasonable prices to keep landfills’ cash flows flowing; backing up the equipment with a solid warranty; and continuing to advance the science and capabilities of compaction.
This is a tall order for manufacturers who are themselves feeling the pinch of a competitive industry. Yet compaction equipment and those who build it are coming through. Here’s a rundown on how these issues are being addressed.
No doubt about it, if you’re looking to maximize compaction, today’s machines can provide it. Thanks to advances in wheel and tooth design and increased weight, landfill compactors can achieve amazing waste densities. It’s no longer a game where 1,200 lb./yd.3 promises a blue ribbon. Landfill compaction is out of the envelope and out of the box. Many landfills today are reporting waste densities that are much greater. At the risk of being labeled as one who believes only what I know or see, I’ve measured MSW densities that exceeded 1,700 lb./yd.3. Frequently I’ve seen results in the range of 1,300-1,400 lb./yd.3 These kinds of results, now fairly common, are the result of a combination of better machines (e.g., wheels, teeth, and unit), heavier machines, and a better understanding of operational technique.
Equipment manufacturers are offering many options for equipment financing. Says Pratt, “In some cases we’re asked to offer a guaranteed buy-back at three-month intervals for a five-year period. While this provides the customer with lots of flexibility, it also adds to the cost of the machine.” This apparently is not a matter for many landfill managers, as long as it provides short-term savings and flexibility.
Durability and Warranty
Manufacturers are answering the call of landfill operators to provide equipment warranties that are longer, stronger, and easier to understand. For example, on some products, Caron Compactor offers a 10,000-hour warranty on teeth and a 20,000-hour warranty on wheel drums. Other manufacturers are moving in this direction too.
Advancing the Science of Compaction
Most equipment manufacturers are continually working to improve their products. Compaction-equipment manufacturers have recently come up with larger, more powerful machines; special blades built to increase production and compaction; and various types of new wheels.
While it’s true that most equipment manufacturers and some landfill operators are making progress in the science of compaction, for many landfills MSW compaction is still a black box. Here’s where networking comes in.
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