Covering Your Bases

WHEN LOOKING FOR the best alternative daily cover (ADC) for the working face of a landfill, several factors — overall climate, typical wind levels, state regulations and more — come into play. The tarps, foams and spray-on materials provide a variety of choices. But the experts agree that there are some basic questions to ask, and the answers will help landfill managers pick a cost-effective ADC that will last.

Know Your Operation

Before making a query about an ADC for a site, it is crucial to make some mental notes about the specifics of the landfill. “Know your working face,” says David Urban, vice president of the Thor Division of Odin International, a tarp manufacturer based in Austin, Texas. “Not tons, but what are its dimensions. For example, it's 30 feet by 30 feet.”

Rebekah Gormish, sales and marketing manager with West Chester, Pa.-based Rusmar Inc., a foam manufacturer, agrees. “The site managers need to know the size of their working face — and [it should be] better than an educated guess,” she says. “They also should know what their current cover costs them.”

Milton Knight, CEO of Perrysburg, Ohio-based New Waste Concepts, a manufacturer of spray-on ADCs and application equipment, says if a landfill operator is using soil to cover the working face, it is important to know what it costs to excavate and bring the soil to the site.

“This includes all fully loaded labor costs, the depreciation on all machines, fuel, maintenance costs, etc.,” Knight says. And know how much time it takes at the end of the day to apply the soil, he adds.

While it seems like this might be a lot of questions to answer, “all of these questions are aimed at making sure the site operator knows what his current costs are so that he can compare the cost of applying the [ADC] material,” Knight explains.

Urban adds that it's important for site managers to formulate their specific plans for the ADC before beginning the shopping process. “Do you plan to use it everyday or only when it rains to keep the dirt out?” he asks.

In addition to considering site size, current cover costs and the extent to which an ADC will be used, landfill managers also should make careful note of the facility's environmental conditions. “Is wind a factor?” Urban says.

Blowing litter and odor problems are other issues to consider, says Dale Deardorff, sales representative with Canton, Ohio-based Central Fiber Corp., a manufacturer of a recycled paper ADC product.

Knowing annual rainfall in the area of the landfill can help a manager pick the most appropriate ADC, according to Dave Collinsworth, sales manager with Canton, Ohio-based Tarpomatic Inc., which sells a mechanical attachment to roll out tarps. “If annual rainfall is high, a site would need an ADC that handles rainfall well,” he says.

And while it may seem like an obvious recommendation, ADC experts stress the importance of knowing the applicable state and local regulations. “Before buying any ADC, it's always a good idea to go to your state Department of Natural Resources to find out what their requirements are first,” Deardorff says.

Finally, prospective ADC buyers must verify that their landfill possesses a smooth and compacted working face to accept whatever ADC is ultimately chosen, says Marlon Yarborough, sales representative for Ponchatoula, La.-based Airspace Saver Daily Cover.

A Wise Man Once Asked

Once landfill managers have the answers to those basic questions, owners should then conduct research on the ADC materials available, such as tarps, biodegradable films and spray-on materials to determine which might suit their operation the best, Urban says.

Regardless of the material, an important question is, “What am I going to be paying per square foot per day?” Urban says. He notes that some ADC materials require equipment purchases in the neighborhood of $40,000 for proper application.

Landfill operators interested in tarps should find out what the base material is, whether the tarp is coated or uncoated, and whether it is flame retardant.

A landfill owner's choice of tarp attributes will be based on the various factors to contend with at the landfill, such as water infiltration of the open face or odors. “Uncoated tarps are porous, so the wind can get through,” Urban says. “But this isn't bad in certain areas.” On the other hand, up North, in the rain, tarps can freeze to the working face under certain conditions, he adds.

Another issue a landfill manager should consider before purchasing a product is, according to Gormish, “How well does the product cover the waste, and at what thickness is it applied?” The less waste that is exposed, the better the landfill manager will be able to control appearance, odors and vectors, she says.

Then, Gormish says, the landfill manager should ask the product manufacturer how long it takes to apply the cover and how many laborers are needed. “These costs need to be factored into the overall ADC budget,” she explains. In addition, managers and owners should consider whether the ADC requires the use of other landfill equipment during application. If the answer is yes, those costs should be factored into the budget as well, she says.

Yarborough cautions landfill managers and owners against trying to save money upfront and then paying for the mistake soon. “A very important question to ask upfront is, ‘What's the cost?’ Yet a very inexpensive [price] — say a $600 tarp — may only last a few months,” he says. “A more expensive tarp may last 18 months.”

“Smaller landfills may try to limp through the year” with an inexpensive product, he adds. But he advises managers to consider buying thicker, higher grade ADCs that will last a year or more.

Landfill operators also should consider associated equipment costs when researching ADCs, Knight says. “Can the equipment be used for other purposes which the landfill operator might need?” he asks. If the answer is yes, that may save the site money.

Landfill managers also should inquire about the history of a product and ask for references. “Ask whether the product has odor control capability, and don't forget to ask for references or specific examples of where the product has been used for that purpose,” Knight says.

When investigating the product, managers need to familiarize themselves with the product manufacturers. Look at companies' latest product developments and look for firms that reinvest money in research and development. That helps yield new products for the marketplace, Knight says.

For multiple sites, landfill management may find that several different ADCs are best, Gormish says. “Each site is unique. One type of ADC may work well at another site within your organization, but because of conditions specific to your location, a different cover may be better suited [for another],” she explains.

Train for Optimum Results

Once a landfill manager has purchased an ADC, experts agree that onsite training can help the ADC perform at its best. Properly training landfill personnel is key to ensuring that the ADC is a strong performer from the get-go.

“When a site begins using an ADC, it changes how the landfill [operates],” Collinsworth says. “We have folks come on site and train [new purchasers] on the equipment.”

In addition to familiarizing personnel with the operation of the equipment, the onsite training helps landfill employees understand the proper application techniques to allow for better coverage in less time, Gormish says.

Urban agrees that employee training can play an important role in getting the most out of an ADC. Operators who will apply the ADC are an important factor in how long the product will last, he explains. So if they are thoroughly applied, the ADC should last longer and perform better.

Training should not end after the initial purchase. Manufacturers should come back to check on how the site's employees are applying the ADC product, Knight says. “Clearly, employees can slip into bad habits and not apply the product as efficiently as they should, meaning that the manufacturer's cover rates are not being met,” he says.

No matter what ADC a landfill ultimately chooses, managers should be prepared to ask plenty of questions during their shopping to make sure they get the best product for their site. And after the purchase is made, they should engage their employees in rigorous training to make sure the site gets all that it can out of the product. That combination will help to ensure the ADC remains a solid and cost-effective fit.

Carol Badaracco Padgett is a contributing writer based in Atlanta.