The world of solid waste is getting both smaller and larger: There are fewer landfills today than 30 years ago, but individual landfills are getting bigger. In the early 1970s, about 20,000 landfills operated coast to coast, compared to a little more than 1700 today—most of which are publicly owned and operated. Photo: BOMAG
Because landfill space is at a premium, the publicly run Bees Ferry Landfill in Charleston County, S.C., uses specialized equipment to mash the refuse down. Photo: BOMAG
Packing it in

Compactors help a South Carolina landfill run a tight operation.

More than a quarter-century old, the Bees Ferry Landfill is fairly typical for a publicly owned landfill.

The 325,000 residents of Charleston County, S.C., send 250,000 tons of solid waste, compost, and construction and demolition debris to the facility—typical numbers. And, like other landfills, it has to make the most of its space.

Landfill supervisor Carl Dukes tackles this big challenge with big equipment. His crews use two BOMAG compactors, a Caterpillar compactor, and two bulldozers to minimize the amount of space the material takes up.

At work or at your office, you might use your hand, or even your foot, to tamp down an overfilled garbage can to make more room. That's what Dukes' BOMAG compactors do—only they do a much better job of it than your gym shoes. The machines not only smash the garbage down, they also shred it and break it into smaller pieces to fill air voids in the huge pile.

They're also more specialized than your size-10 Nikes.

A landfill comprises some seriously irregular terrain, ground that modified wheel loaders and other equipment can't traverse. Bees Ferry Landfill's BOMAG compactors have center articulation joints, hydrostatic drives, and independent motors on all four wheels, which helps ensure all four tires are on the ground at once to keep the machine stable. Other features like long-wearing rollers and advanced air intake combine to help make the compactors a valuable part of the landfill's arsenal.

“They've been great assets,” says Dukes.