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What Is Waste Compaction?

Waste in a landfill.
After being collected and transported to a landfill or other facility, waste is often compacted.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Waste compaction describes various methods used to compress and consolidate various types of items that are dumped into a landfill. The general idea is to enhance the efficiency of the waste collection and disposal process by condensing the collected waste into a smaller mass that itakes up less room in the landfill. There are actually multiple phases to waste compaction, beginning at the point of collection and finally concluding with additional compressing at the landfill itself.

The basic idea behind waste compaction is to reduce the amount of space that the collected waste takes up. As part of the general waste handling process, collection vehicles will often have equipment that provides at least some compacting of the garbage collected from residences and businesses. This aids in the efficiency of waste collection, since the trucks can collect more trash before having to proceed to a landfill. With many designs, a hydraulic system helps to crush and condense the garbage as it is fed into the hopper mounted on the garbage truck.

At the landfill, the process of waste compaction continues. Larger equipment is used to shred the collected waste, then tear the shreds into smaller pieces. Those smaller pieces are then compressed into even smaller units, making it much easier to then spread the collected waste over a section of the landfill. The end result is that a large volume of trash can be easily discarded in a fraction of the space that would otherwise be required.

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In some jurisdictions, waste compaction also involves sorting of the collected materials before this final round of compacting. To this end, the waste may be divided using various categories, with the non-biodegradable waste being segregated from other products that will not degrade in a reasonable period of time. This process makes it easier to compact the sorted garbage and deposit the residue in specific areas of the landfill.

The process of waste compaction is often utilized in conjunction with other methods to help manage the use of landfills to better effect. Many jurisdictions utilize both compaction as well as recycling programs to deal with discarded items. By adding a recycling component that removes certain items from the collected waste, it is possible to further reduce the amount of garbage that is ultimately deposited into a landfill. Minimizing the amount of compaction also means the landfill can remain in use for more years, while the recycling also means that the demand for new materials to manufacture new products is kept to a minimum.

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