Understanding Landfill Cells and Covers

Landfill Cells

In a nutshell, a cell is where the trash is stored within the landfill. 

One of the most precious commodities and overriding problems in a landfill is air space. The amount of space in a cell is directly correlated with the capacity and usable life of a landfill. If you can increase its air space, then you can extend the usable life of a landfill. 

In order to do this, waste is compacted into small areas, called cells, which contain only a single day's trash. For instance, a cell can hold 2,500 tons after being compressed at 1,500 pounds per cubic yard. The compression of this trash is done with bulldozers, tractors, graders, and rollers which go over the trash multiple times. After a cell is created, it is covered with soil and further compacted. These cells are then arranged in layers and rows of adjoining cells.

Landfill Covers

Landfill cells have been traditionally covered every day with six inches of compressed soil. This soil covering helps to seal the compacted trash and stops pests like rats, mice, birds, and flying insects from getting into the trash. As you can imagine, this soil takes up a lot of space. 

Since space is such a precious commodity in landfills, many landfills today have opted to use tarps and liners. These effectively cover trash while taking up less than half an inch of space. This makes liners a much more appealing option since it saves over 5 inches of space per layer.  

Permanent and Temporary Landfill Covers

There are two primary types of impermeable landfill covers: permanent and temporary. Permanent landfill covers are most often used when a landfill’s cell is closed. Temporary covers and caps are typically employed to reduce the infiltration of liquids (often precipitation) into the waste to minimize leachate generation.  

What is Leachate?

Leachate is the name for the liquid that drains from a landfill. While leachate varies in composition, it usually contains suspended and dissolved materials. 

Occasionally, leachate can seep through a weak point in a landfill’s covering and pour out onto the surface. The substance appears bubbly and dark, and will later stain the ground red. These leachate seepages are quickly repaired by excavating the surrounding area of the seepage as well as filling it with compacted soil that diverts the flow of leachate back into the landfill.

However, choosing the right cover from the beginning can significantly lower the chance of accidents like this one from happening. BTL Liners is a leading provider of landfill covers with ArmorCover products that range in weight from 9-mil to 16-mil to provide excellent protection from leachate, precipitation, and pests.

Covers by BTL


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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