While landfills have proven to work well in the past, space is filling up, and the amount of waste is increasing. A more long-term storage solution will prevent contamination and prove to be a great choice for any solid waste disposal company. 

Alyssa Davis


With current landfills reaching full capacity and the growing emphasis on recycling, it is critical that companies and individuals nationwide starting developing their own solutions to solid waste storage. As budgets are shrinking, finding a cost-effective way to store ever-increasing amounts of solid waste is not an easy task.


The term solid waste refers to common items used and then discarded. Some of these items may be recyclable, while others cannot be reused. Solid waste comes from residences, schools, hospitals and businesses, and while some locations have town and city waste companies, many hire outside companies to do the job. Of the four main components of the solid waste industry, three need a large amount of space for proper storage. These include landfilling, recycling and composting. Covered storage is a necessity for these forms of solid waste to protect it from the elements, such as rain and snow, which can create a waste stream and contaminate the environment.


Using Landfills

While regulations on solid waste storage may vary, most towns and states follow the same principle. Solid waste must be stored in a way that prevents a waste stream from harming the surrounding environment. States must comply with the U.S. EPA regulations for storing solid waste, which leaves few efficient storage options.


One of the most common places to store solid waste is in landfills. Landfills are sections of land that are cordoned off to protect the environment from hazardous runoff and other forms of contamination. Landfills cannot be located near environmentally sensitive areas including wetlands, faults and flood plains where there is an increased chance of contamination. They are constructed on top of liners, which are on top of about two feet of compacted clay. This is to be sure that no contaminants leak through the liner into ground water below. Though landfills are very popular, they are filling up quickly and it is difficult to find new locations that meet the requirements to construct new landfills.


Emphasizing on Recycling and Composting

The first step to decreasing the amount of waste that goes into landfills is to increase the emphasis on recycling and composting. Recyclable products are now required to be sorted from other waste in many states. By recycling paper, plastic, cardboard and other materials, the amount of unusable waste will be reduced and less space will be required for its storage. Though you have to store recyclable materials as well, they will only remain in this location for a short period of time, meaning that other recyclables can be stored in the same space as they wait to be processed.


Composting is also a great way to reduce the amount of solid waste entering landfills. Composting processes biodegradable waste, such as kitchen scraps, leaves and manure, and turns it into a highly effective soil for growing crops. Not only does composting decrease waste, but the end product will helps plants grow more quickly into healthy, lush fruits and vegetables. Composting can be done in structures or in large piles. Leaving exposed piles, or piles under tarps, will most likely lead to runoff contaminating the environment, so structures are the most efficient place to create composting piles.


Building Options

Buildings can be used for storing waste that normally would end up in a landfill, as well as recycling and composting piles. There are a variety of building options that can be constructed by waste and recycling companies for this purpose. Wood, steel and tension fabric structures are the most common types used for solid waste storage. Wood and steel are more traditional building types for these applications, but recently fabric structures have been increasing in popularity for solid waste storage. There are many factors to consider when choosing which type of structure will best fit your company’s needs.


Size of the Structure

One of the most important factors in building choice is the size of the structure. Wood structures commonly have a maximum width of 150’, but can be constructed to any length. Metal structures have predetermined dimensions set by the manufacturer, so customization can be difficult. Fabric structures are often available in widths up to 300’ and can be built to any length. Unlike wood or metal structures, if needs change down the line, the length of fabric structures can be easily added to at any time. This is because fabric buildings can be extended simply by adding on extra trusses and extending the fabric cover rather than taking down a portion of the building in order to add on to it.



Wind and snow-load ratings are also crucial when deciding on a solid waste storage structure. Naturally, buildings must be constructed to meet local building codes in your area. Fabric buildings can be custom designed to meet wind and snow-load ratings in any location, including hurricane-prone spots with winds loads up to 150 mph.



When working with a contractor to construct your building, be sure you are aware of the materials they are using. For example, if you are building a wood structure, ask the contractors what grades of lumber they plan to use. Lumber also needs to be checked for any defects to ensure the structure will be durable and long lasting. If you’ve chosen a metal building, the gauge of the metal is important. Most commonly, these buildings are made of 29-gauge steel sheets. For fabric structures, the highest quality manufacturers will use triple-galvanized structural steel tubing, which stands up in corrosive environments like solid waste facilities.


Foundation Type

Another aspect in choosing the building for your needs is foundation type. Many buildings, such as wood and steel structures, need costly concrete foundations to be poured prior to the building being installed. Concrete foundations can take up to a few weeks to install and dry, adding on to your project timeline. Fabric buildings, on the other hand, do not require a foundation. You can simply anchor the building and it will stay in place. For fabric buildings, there are many types of anchoring options available, from poured concrete, to shipping containers, to block, to helical anchors.


Helical anchors drill directly into the ground and involves minimal site work. Classified as 100 percent temporary, they do not require concrete or a foundation. They can also remain in place for as long as necessary without being replaced. Helicals are environmentally friendly because they can be removed without disturbing the surrounding area. Less expensive than traditional anchoring, this ground screw option is fast and convenient. They can be used for virtually any type of building and have proven successful in the waste and decontamination industry. Some options are better than others for solid waste applications. For example, concrete blocks are easy to move if necessary and are very affordable. These blocks can be stacked to increase or decrease the height of the building, which is a great option for waste containment since piles can grow very large.


Lifetime Expectations and Warranties

The last important factor to take into consideration when choosing a building is the lifetime expectations and warranties. The structure you choose will be a crucial part of your company, so it should be guaranteed to last for an extensive period of time. With the necessary maintenance, wood buildings have a lifespan of about 20 years, and a metal building will last anywhere from 10 to 15 years on average. Manufacturers of fabric structures consider the average lifespan of their fabric covers to be 25 years, while the frame should last a lifetime. The average warranty on fabric covers is 15 years. Tension fabric buildings offer the longest lifespan, are highly customizable and can be built to meet the needs of your specific location. They also have an advantage when it comes to construction timelines. Most fabric buildings take less than a week to install, while wood and metal structures require long timelines, costly foundations and frequent maintenance. Fabric structure maintenance is limited to a twice yearly inspection of the building components and tightening of bolts when necessary.


Fabric Structures

Fabric structures have no internal support posts, which also makes them ideal for waste storage. Equipment can easily be moved in and out of the structure, and can be maneuvered inside with no obstructions. The high clearances these buildings offer allow for larger piles to be stored inside. Their abundant natural light also creates a safe work environment for employees who are operating machinery inside the structure, and adds to their economical nature.


Fabric structures are the most economical structure option because they are often up to 30% less expensive than wood and steel buildings. The natural daytime light that filters through the covers eliminates the need for artificial daytime lighting, which creates a significant reduction in energy costs. At night, the white interior of the cover reflects light, meaning less fixtures are needed to illuminate the building.


Tensions fabric structures are the newest option on the market for solid waste storage, but they are not a new technology. Fabric buildings have been common in the agricultural industry since the 1950s. They are used for hay and equipment storage, livestock housing and more. Many livestock buildings are exposed to very corrosive conditions, especially when housing pigs or poultry. These structures have proven to be a great option for hog and chicken farmers, as the frames do not rust or rot in these applications. Due to the large variety of benefits and affordable cost, tension fabric buildings have become popular in many other industries, including waste storage and handling.


With so many options for solid waste storage structures, managers and executives of waste disposal companies need to be aware of the advantages of disadvantages of each type, while focusing on what is most cost-effective and efficient for their business and location. While landfills have proven to work well in the past, space is filling up, and the amount of waste is increasing. A more long-term solution will prevent contamination and prove to be a great choice for any solid waste disposal company.


Alyssa Davis is the Marketing Product Manager for ClearSpan Fabric Structures (Windsor, CT) a leading manufacturer of tension fabric buildings—all made in the USA. ClearSpan specialists guide customers through the process and communicate with in-house design, engineering and manufacturing teams. For more information, call (866) 643-1010 or visit www.ClearSpan.com/ADWA.