As your landfill evolves over time, revisit which factors are most valuable to you.
By J.D. Mohr

It is no secret in the waste industry that adopting alternative daily cover (ADC) is a slam dunk. Instead of filling valuable airspace with soil, landfills can save on operational costs and even generate additional revenue. While there is a wide variety of ADCs on the market, they can largely be placed into the following categories: non-reusable geosynthetic film, geosynthetic tarps, spray on foams or slurries, and revenue generating cover delivered to the landfill. Which one should you pick to meet your cover requirements?

At a recent conference in Florida, I was having lunch with a table full of landfill managers when the topic of equipment purchases came up. One of the managers stated that value is his most important consideration when making a procurement decision. It made me think about the many ways ADCs can add value.

How does your ADC perform in heavy rains?


Enviro Cover with vapors collecting underneath film on working face, trapping odors. Photos courtesy of EPI Enviro Cover.

What Do I Value?
If you ask five different landfill managers for their opinions, you will likely get five different answers. Most sites would benefit from having several ADC options on hand to meet changing conditions on the hill. While it is not a “one size fits all” type of decision, you can methodically approach the process by examining the key factors at yours. The relative importance of those factors will help you appropriately value and ultimately choose an ADC.

Talk to your crew and brainstorm together about both what works and what is challenging with current cover operations. In my experience, it helps to involve them early in the process because it helps with buy-in later, which is critical to long-term success. When they understand the options under consideration and the benefits of a new approach, they will embrace the challenge. I have had the privilege of working with many amazing operators on landfills. Most really care and will be your best source of feedback once they understand the vision.

Valuable Benefits
Since every site is unique, each will value benefits differently. What do you need your cover to do for you? Some might just want an inexpensive cover to just get the job done. A large part will depend on what you, or the people you answer to, prioritize most.

For example, a site in town with lots of neighbors and businesses nearby would value odor control significantly more than one in a rural area with few neighbors. In fact, reducing gas emissions and odor complaints from the working face might be critical to the continued operation of such a facility.

Another landfill might have high leachate treatment costs and be focused on minimizing rainwater infiltration. Finding a cover that holds up in and effectively sheds rainwater, while not contributing any additional moisture itself, can help save real dollars.

Given the significant value in preserved airspace by avoiding soil, finding an ADC that can work in all weather (high winds, precipitation, and snow) and extreme temperatures could also be a priority.

The hard truth is that compliance can be subjective and lie in the eye of the beholder. As I learned the hard way in college, not all professors grade the same. Your site might be subjected to more careful scrutiny from state inspectors, so you need to be careful to completely cover the working face and have no exposed waste. Does the ADC you are considering help keep you in compliance and avoid violations for flagging, shadowing, or daylighting?

Value Versus Price
It is impossible to assess value without also considering price. Once you understand what is important, you will need to consider which options you can afford and if spending more is justified. Most products will require specialized deployment equipment to apply cover materials. The cost of these machines can be paid for in a variety of ways, whether outright through a purchase or over time through a rental. In the case of “free” use equipment, the cost is either baked into the price of the cover materials or recouped through other means.

Some ADCs require use of your existing landfill equipment to move their machines around the working face. Do not forget to factor in this hidden (capital, operations, and maintenance) cost associated with running that equipment, otherwise you will literally be giving them a free ride.

Finally, ask for help from your sales representative to calculate a per square foot cost for the ongoing cover material to facilitate comparison. In the case of tarps, while reusable, understand the replacement cost and expected lifetime as they do not last forever. However, they should be able to get you pretty close based on your site-specific data.

EPI’s Model ECD 800 Deployer in the process of applying Enviro Cover films and the finished product

Validating the Value
During my lunch discussion, the landfill managers also talked about how important it is to conduct hands-on demonstrations of the equipment. After evaluating ADCs on paper, it is time to vet your favorite one in person to experience the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Most providers will accommodate such a request. By bringing a system onsite, you can check your assumptions and make the most informed decision possible before purchasing. While peer feedback is important, they may have subconsciously accepted the pain points from having used a system for years.
As your landfill evolves over time, you may need to revisit which factors are most valuable to you. Every landfill can benefit from an ADC, and I know you will find a valued one for yours. | WA

J.D. Mohr is Business Development Executive for EPI Enviro Cover. He has more than 16 years in the waste industry as a business owner and waste industry consultant. J.D. can be reached at (317) 316-2922, e-mail [email protected] or visit