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By Evan Williams, Cambridge Companies

May 1, 2019


Transfer stations and material recovery facilities (MRFs) serve important functions to the greater community.

They serve as a means to more efficiently transport municipal solid waste (MSW) for disposal and recover materials for recycling to minimize what is sent to the landfill. From a high level, they exist as purely positive forces with important functions. Why then, are they relegated to the far corners of industrial parks or adjacent to closed landfills? This issue relates to the complexities of managing the potentially negative impacts these facilities can have on their neighbors and the community as a whole. By better understanding the impacts your facility can have on the larger community you can better address them or use education to build a greater understanding and appreciation for the realities of your business. The impacts can be grouped into several categories: Vectors, Odors and Dust, Wind-Blown Debris, Environmental Concerns, and Traffic.


Any facility that receives solid waste, single stream recyclables or source separated material has an issue with vectors in one way or another. Vectors as a term covers nuisance animals that can carry disease. For solid waste facilities, this mostly deals with mice, rats and birds. There are several operational best practices to help minimize these populations. For the mice and rats, keeping the floor clean is important. In addition, designing a facility with minimal space to create homes can help stop a colony from getting a foothold. As a best-practice, a local pest control company may be engaged to set up bait block stations to keep the population of these low. Birds, on the other hand, can pose a difficult challenge. The birds will often roost in the roof rafters, and their waste can become a large issue. There are several strategies that can be effective in dealing with this, depending on your building type and the type of bird you are attempting to discourage. Bird wire—a wire that is strung across tipping aprons and similar areas—discourages the birds from nesting in the areas it is strung. In addition, you can install bird netting on the inside of your building to keep the birds from roosting in your ceiling. Another approach that can be effective is using air noise makers to disturb the birds. You must take proactive action to keep these vectors under control, as their populations not only impact your facility, but also your neighbors who will also pay the price if you do not address this.

Odors and Dust

The issue with odor and dust in transfer stations and MRFs can be greatly minimized through smart facility planning, operations and a few remediative approaches. When you are designing a facility, it is important to site the primary tipping bay doors away from the prevailing winds. In addition, high-speed doors can be installed on all exterior doors. These approaches can minimize the magnitude of odors and fugitive dust that are carried offsite. In addition, there are several negative air systems that can pull in and treat the facility air before releasing it. These systems can help control dust and odor. Another effective solution for dust and odor control is the use of a misting system. These systems use water and can incorporate chemical odor neutralizers to create a very fine mist over the primary work areas. A benefit to the misting systems is that they can be easily retrofitted to existing facilities with minimal disruption and yield impressive results. For MRFs, a dust extraction system with pickup points at the main dust generations points can also prove very effective.

Read the full article on Waste Advantage Magazine