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Landfill Settlement: The Basics Discussed

Current landfill site practice in response to the requirements of the Waste Regulations (UK) is to minimise leachate generation. To achieve this the operator fills the site, in a series of phases or cells which are raised as rapidly as input rates will allow to the top of the landfill, within small constrained areas, to reduce rainfall ingress.

When the operational cell is complete to restoration levels it is likely to be capped to prevent further ingress of rain water. Even the oldest waste at the bottom is therefore likely to be quite young and very little of degradation will have taken place to most of the waste.

So, under these circumstances significant settlement can then be expected, no matter how well the waste is compacted by the action of the site “compactor vehicles” (wheeled or sometimes tracked front-end shovels – often called “buldozers” by the public).

Settlement occurs due to the following mechanisms:-

i.The load on waste in the lower levels imposed by waste above it, particularly for deep sites, will be several times greater than that imposed during the initial compaction process using mechanical compactors. This will result in continued, physical compression compaction throughout the waste. This mechanism for settlement is likely to be predominant during filling and immediately following capping.
ii.The degradation process breaking down waste into a denser material.
iii.Volume reduction due to volatilisation (carbon emission in landfill gas etc). The production of gas will mean in very approximate terms a net mass loss of possibly 18% in total waste mass assuming 150m3 of landfill gas is in time extracted from each tonne of waste at 1.15kg/m3.
iv. Removal of leachate from lower levels of waste may also cause further settlement which is probably due to the pore water pressures being reduced.

Settlement is therefore predictable and must be catered for in the design of the gas abstraction system. It is the job of the landfill gas Engineer to assess the site “condition” and determine the potential for further settlement so that he can be satisfied a suitable design is proposed.

Determination of settlement rates and possible leachate levels is particularly pertinent to new sites and are important design parameters for the landfill gas Engineer to determine before he starts his system design.

If you need your landfill modelled for settlement, and settlement prediction provided, this is a service we provide regularly through our associated consultants. Just Contact us by email at news [at] (Please replace [at] with @ ).

5 Responses to Landfill Settlement: The Basics Discussed

  1. Alaa Abou-Antoun 30th January 2012 at 7:49 am #

    appreciate that settlement is site specific and can not be generic across all landfills however, is there a reasonable range (%) one could expect for settlement?


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