Date: Tuesday, August 16, 2022
AUTHOR: Viably

5 Reasons Why Landfills Are Changing How Bulky Waste Is Processed

Bulky waste in a container.

For many U.S. landfills, bulky waste is one of the most difficult and costly waste streams to process. Items like furniture, mattresses, and appliances are common causes of increased landfill operation costs and deflating cell lifespans. As a result, landfills are seeking ways to reduce their bulky waste problems.

According to the Waste Business Journal’s 2019 Waste Market Overview & Outlook, from 2018 through 2023, the projected landfill capacity across the United States will decline by approximately 15%. As a result, by the end of 2023, only 17 years of landfill capacity is projected to remain—with less than ten years of space remaining in the Northeast region. Considering the lengthy, arduous, and expensive tasks associated with siting and permitting new landfill space, extending the lifespan of current landfills has become a high priority. In addition, landfills must also overcome some of the most common challenges that impact efficiency, safety and profitability.

Challenge 1: Lost In Space

Most landfill managers consider airspace a valuable asset of their site and one they must protect. For decades, waste compaction has been the primary strategy to maximize airspace and retain the most value from it.

The compaction process is simple: an operator drives a large, steel-wheeled machine back and forth over mountains of trash, using the machine’s weight to compress the waste below. However, the compactor’s effectiveness will often vary due to fluctuating waste types and shifts in moisture content. In addition, the compactor’s weight can sometimes be inadequate to break down bulky waste like mattresses, furniture, and household appliances. As a result, many U.S. landfills have begun seeking additional solutions to enable more efficient processing of bulky waste while increasing airspace recovery.

Challenge 2: Pressure at the Pump

Since early 2022, the waste and recycling industry has had to absorb some of the most extreme surges in fuel prices in recent years, with no significant end in sight. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, from October 2020 to June 2022, retail prices for diesel fuel rose by approximately 240%. As a result, many landfill operations have seen facility fuel expenses skyrocket.

When bulky waste is not adequately size-reduced before final landfill disposal, the number of passes a compactor must make increases. The more passes, the more fuel used—not to mention the added equipment operator time and machine wear and tear. Additionally, bulky waste can further drive fuel expenses upward due to debris clinging to and wrapping around a compactor’s moving parts.

Challenge 3: Going Under Daily Cover

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) governs solid waste disposal in the United States. Subtitle D of the RCRA requires solid waste disposal operations to apply an alternate daily cover (that they don’t always have) to active landfill cells to help contain waste, control odors, minimize animal scavengers and reduce fire risk. When bulky waste isn’t compacted well or reduced enough, landfills are usually forced to use additional daily cover to prevent waste exposure. Daily cover expenses are further increased by associated fuel and labor costs.

Challenge 4: Staying Within the Liners

As part of Subtitle D requirements, landfills must also install composite liners in cells to prevent toxic leachate fluid from seeping into and polluting the surrounding soil and groundwater. According to MSW Management, more than six billion gallons of leachate are generated annually in landfills in the U.S.

Despite their protective defense, leachate liners can also be susceptible to accidental punctures or tears when underprocessed, sharp-edged bulky waste is placed in a cell. Once this happens, a liner’s impermeability is compromised, and leakage risks are drastically increased.

Challenge 5: Buried Treasures

Landfill owners know that bulky waste can consume valuable time and space at their facilities. However, many landfills miss out on lost revenue by burying this commodity-rich waste. In addition, materials found in bulky waste are not only recyclable but have tremendous market value when properly separated and recycled.

Most bulky and C&D waste is rich in recyclable commodities like ferrous iron and steel, non-ferrous aluminum, and wood. Recovering these recyclable resources can open new revenue streams for landfills as market demand grows due to volatile fluctuations in virgin material costs and supply.

Bringing Bulk Down to Size

Landfills are now solving these bulky waste challenges with the help of purpose-built size and volume reduction technology. For example, low-speed, high-torque shredding is an efficient method to reduce the material size and increase the bulk density of solid waste. In addition, the low-speed shredding process helps break up valuable recyclables like metals and wood from other low-recovery materials like plastics which typically are buried in the landfill.

The Komptech Terminator low-speed, single-shaft shredder processing solid waste at a landfill.

“To maximize landfill airspace and reduce costs, volume reduction best practices must be learned and implemented, especially with bulky waste,” says Garrett Lapsys, Midwest U.S. Area Sales Manager at Viably (formerly Komptech Americas). “The Komptech Terminator single-shaft industrial shredder is a proven size reduction technology solution that enables landfills to optimize production easily.”

The Benefits of Shredding

One of the immediate and significant impacts landfills realize from combining low-speed shredding with compaction is the airspace reclamation within cells. Shredding bulky waste before it is compacted allows the oversized and oddly shaped materials to be broken apart, reduced, and homogenized in size. In addition, pre-shredding enables the compactor to do its job much more efficiently, reducing the number of passes by up to half. As a result, landfill airspace is maximized while compactor usage and fuel costs are reduced.

A visual comparison between compaction alone vs. shredding with compaction at a landfill.

Shredding bulky waste with a low-speed machine like the Komptech Terminator creates a more uniform product entering the landfill. Shredding also reduces bulky waste to a fraction of its original size, ensuring materials are more densely packed in the cell, eliminating air voids. Additional benefits of shredding bulky waste include decreased daily cover amounts, reduced daily cover application times, and lessened risk of puncture to the cell liner.

Maximizing Additional Revenue Opportunities

Manually separating and recovering metals from incoming waste can be tedious and hazardous, leading to valuable commodities being missed and buried. The Komptech Terminator single-shaft shredder automates the process with an optional overbelt magnet. Regardless of the slope of the conveyor, the magnet provides parallel positioning over the discharge conveyor, delivering optimal metal separation in all working positions.

The Komptech Terminator shredder separating metals from the discharge material with overband magnet.

Leverage Industry Expertise

On August 25, at the Environment, Energy & Recycling Conference 2022 in Gatlinburg, TN, Garrett Lapsys of Viably (fomerly Komptech Americas) will deliver an informative presentation on recommended best practices and technology steps for landfills to streamline bulky waste processing.

“Although landfill operations are faced with several challenges, there is still a significant opportunity to profit from streamlining their process,” says Lapsys. “Staying aware of adapting market trends by leveraging advanced shredding technologies will be vital for landfills to capitalize airspace and profitability in the future.”

Garrett Lapsys, Area Sales Manager – Midwest U.S. for Viably

We invite you to join Garrett Lapsys in the exhibit booth at the Environment, Energy & Recycling Conference 2022. Throughout the event, attendees can speak one-on-one with Lapsys to discover how Komptech industrial shredding technologies deliver more efficient bulky waste size and volume reduction at lower costs.

For more about the Environment, Energy & Recycling Conference 2022, hosted by the Tennessee Recycling Coalition and Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, visit


Wednesday, August 24, 2022 – 5:00 PM–6:30 PM
Thursday, August 25, 2022 – 7:30 AM–3:30 PM
Friday, August 26, 2022 – 7:30 AM–10:00 AM


The Park Vista Hotel – Gatlinburg, TN
705 Cherokee Orchard Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Ballroom 1, 2, 3, 4 downstairs


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