Repurposed Tarps vs Geomembrane Rain Covers

The term, tarp, is commonly used casually in the landfill management business to refer to rain covers used for temporary and daily cover. However, the materials used for these covers are anything but basic tarps. The materials used for wrapping up lawn equipment or temporarily covering a roof aren’t good choices for the challenging environment of the landfill cell. Thick and durable geomembranes made from materials like RPE are the correct choice. Here are the reasons why using just any old repurposed tarp material is a poor choice for rain covers for landfills.

Reliability in a Storm

Rain covers are often applied specifically when a big rainstorm is expected. In facilities where soil cover is considered enough for daily use, impermeable rain covers may still be used when heavy rain fall is expected. This means that heavy winds, hail, and even snow can be a problem for the cover. Thinner tarps will buckle, tear, or fold up under these kinds of conditions. Even with the best anchoring or suspension system, a basic tarp is likely to tear into pieces when exposed to high winds or a lot of rainfall building up over the surface. Since rain covers are often used for storm protection, they must be able to handle the conditions without tearing or blowing away.

Durability Under Regular Use

Unlike other types of landfill covers that are installed once, daily covers must be stretched out and retracted over and over again. A single cover may be folded or rolled thousands of times before it’s replaced. That kind of constant stress on the material is simply too much for most tarps. Tarps are generally designed for minimal use, while the geomembranes used as covers are built with long-term flexibility in mind. When you add in constant UV exposure, it’s very hard for a repurposed tarp material to hold up for more than a few days. In contrast, most temporary rain covers made of geomembranes last for months to years before replacement.

Spreading Equipment

Average tarps just aren’t strong or durable enough to withstand mechanical application. They must be spread by hand and then anchored with sandbags or a similar costly addition to the cover. The time spent on spreading and removing a tarp can make it an unfeasible choice for daily cover, especially when considering how quickly a soil cover can be applied. In contrast, geomembranes are durable enough for mechanical or even automatic application at the end of a day. This makes them faster than soil cover in many cases, reducing labor costs and freeing up workers to focus on other site management tasks.

Tear Resistance Over Sharp Materials

Tears are always a matter of concern when stretching a flexible material over a compacted layer of trash. Any unevenness or sharp material over the compacted face of the cell can tear the material, resulting in leaks that make the cover far less useful. Reinforced geomembranes in particular are the best choice for covering a landfill cell since the reinforced scrim lends the material greater tear resistance. A flexible material like RPE can stretch around and over the protrusion rather than tearing, ensuring that storm water stays out of the landfill.


Many tarps not designed specifically for landfill cover use are woven rather than made through an alternative process like calendaring or extrusion. Woven materials may be mildly impermeable, but they’ll let plenty of water through when it gathers on the surface and quickly seeps through. Even non-woven, standard tarps tend to be far more permeable than many landfill owners assume. Choosing a far more impermeable material, such as RPE covers, is a better choice for reliable water control even when it gathers over a surface.

Don’t turn to tarps or repurposed materials when trying to find a daily cover material for active landfill cells. Temporary rain covers are best made from new materials designed with this purpose in mind. BTL Liners stocks all the durable and reinforced geomembranes you need for both temporary and permanent landfill rain covers.

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Using a two-color technology, ArmorCover maximizes your protection from the elements. Whether you're needing a greenhouse light deprivation cover, a sports field cover or a hay pile cover, ArmorCover is the best and most versatile solution on the market for all of your cover projects.

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