Solid waste transfer station

Considered for Your Community?

You've just learned that a solid waste transfer station developer is proposing to build a facility in your community. Like many citizens, you may have concerns, including uncertainties about potential safety and health impacts. You may even wonder what a waste transfer station is. In simple terms, a transfer station is a facility where solid waste is unloaded from smaller trucks and reloaded into larger vehicles for transport to a final disposal site.

Waste transfer stations make solid waste collection more efficient and reduce overall transportation costs, air emissions, energy use, truck traffic, and road wear and tear. This saves you and your community money and lowers the cost of your solid waste management services.

The selection of a site for any waste-related facility can be a sensitive issue, particularly for those living nearby. In principle, most people realize that such facilities are needed and will be needed in the future. In some cases, however, concern arises about a specific location for a waste transfer station and whether the facility will be properly managed.

Well-managed waste transfer stations are:
  • Located, designed, and operated to ensure the public health, safety, and welfare of the community and environment.
  • Located so as to minimize incompatibility with the character of the surrounding area.
  • Located where traffic patterns to or from the facility minimize the impact on existing traffic flows.
  • Consistent with state, local or tribal regulations and solid waste management plans.
What Is a Transfer Station?

A waste transfer station is a light industrial-type facility where trash collection trucks discharge their loads so trash can be compacted and then reloaded into larger vehicles (e.g., trucks, trains and barges) for shipment to a final disposal site, typically a landfill or waste-to-energy facility. Transfer station operators usually move waste off the site in a matter of minutes or hours.

Transfer stations serve both rural and urban communities. In densely populated areas, they are generally fully enclosed.

Waste transfer stations handle the trash that you set out for collection. At many transfer stations, workers screen incoming wastes on the receiving floor or in an earthen pit, recovering materials from the waste stream that can be recycled and separating out any inappropriate wastes (e.g., tires, large appliances, automobile batteries) that are not allowed in a disposal facility.

Why Are Transfer Stations Needed?

Communities need transfer stations to move their waste efficiently from the point of collection to distant, regional landfills or waste-to-energy plants. By consolidating solid waste collection and disposal points, transfer stations help communities reduce the cost of hauling waste to these remote disposal sites.

Waste transfer stations may be the most cost-effective when they are located near a collection area. The use of transfer stations lowers collection costs, as crews spend less time traveling to and from distant disposal sites and more time collecting waste. This reduces costs for labor, fuel and collection vehicle maintenance.

What Are the Benefits?

Why are transfer stations growing in popularity around the United kingdom? Besides reduced transportation costs, here are a few of the benefits. The waste transfer station:

  • Reduces overall community truck traffic by consolidating smaller loads into larger vehicles.
  • Offers more flexibility in waste handling and disposal options. Decision-makers can select among different disposal options and secure the lowest disposal fees or choose a desired method of disposal (e.g., land filling, waste-to-energy).
  • Reduces air pollution, fuel consumption, and road wear by consolidating trash into fewer vehicles.
  • Allows for screening of waste for special handling. At many transfer stations, workers screen incoming wastes on concrete floors or conveyor belts to separate out readily recyclable materials or any inappropriate wastes (e.g., tires, automobile batteries) that are not allowed in a landfill or a waste-to-energy facility.
  • Reduces traffic at the disposal facility. The fact that fewer vehicles go to the landfill or waste-to-energy facility reduces congestion and operating costs and increases safety.
  • Offers citizens facilities for convenient drop-off of waste and recyclables. Some transfer stations have a designated area, often called a convenience center, where residents drop off waste or recyclables in collection containers.
What Can I Do About My Health and Safety Concerns?

Traffic, noise, and odor may exist around waste transfer stations. Other problems that can result from an improperly designed or operated facility, include:

  • Rodents and birds.
  • Litter.
  • Air emissions.

Thoughtful design choices and well-managed operations can and do address potential negative impacts. This section will describe typical concerns and offer suggestions that you can take to your transfer station developer to help resolve your concerns.

Traffic:

Transfer stations reduce overall traffic by consolidating smaller, loads into larger vehicles. The transfer station, however, will generate additional amounts of traffic in its immediate area. This traffic can contribute to increased road congestion, air emissions, noise, and wear on roads. For this reason, waste transfer stations are often located in industrial areas that have ready access to major roadways. Travel routes and resulting traffic impacts typically receive significant attention during transfer station siting and design. Some important design and operating features that should be used include:

  • Selecting sites that have direct access to truck routes, highways and rail or barge terminals.
  • Providing adequate space within the facility site so that customers waiting to use the transfer station do not interrupt traffic on public roads or impact nearby residences or businesses.
  • Designating haul routes to and from the transfer station that avoid congested areas, residential areas, business districts, schools, hospitals and other sensitive areas.
  • Designing safe intersections with public roads.
Noise:

Heavy truck traffic and the operation of heavy-duty facility equipment (e.g., conveyors and front-end loaders) are the primary sources of noise from a transfer station. Design and operating practices that help reduce noise include:

  • Confining noisy activities within buildings or other enclosures as much as possible.
  • Using landscaping, sound barriers, and earth berms to absorb exterior noise.
  • Arranging the site so that traffic flows are not adjacent to properties that are sensitive to noise.
  • Providing setback distances, called buffer zones, to separate noisy activities from adjacent land uses.
  • Conducting activities that generate the most amount of noise during the day.
Odor:

Garbage, particularly food waste and grass, has a high potential for odor. Proper facility design can significantly reduce odor problems. Carefully positioning the building and its doorways with respect to neighbors is a good first step. At the transfer building itself, exhaust fans with air filters and rooftop exhaust vents can further reduce off-site odor impacts. Some of the operating procedures that can help reduce odors include:

  • "First-in, first-out" waste handling practices that keep waste on site only for short periods of time.
  • Removing all waste from the tipping floor or pit by the end of each operating day so that these surfaces can be swept clean and washed down.
  • "Good housekeeping" measures, including regular cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and equipment that come into contact with waste.
  • Water misting and/or deodorizing systems.
Rodents and Birds:

Rodents and birds can be a nuisance and a potential health concern at waste transfer stations, but few basic design and operational elements can control them. For instance, good housekeeping practices are a simple and effective means of minimizing their presence. These practices include removing all waste delivered to the facility by the end of each day, and cleaning the receiving floor daily (small, rural facilities may require several days to accumulate a full container of waste for transport). Receiving waste only within an enclosed structure and otherwise preventing litter can reduce the presence of birds. If problems persist in the vicinity, baiting and trapping can control rodents.

Litter:

In the course of facility operations, it is likely that stray pieces of waste may become litter in and around the waste transfer station. Measures that can help reduce litter include:

  • Positioning the main transfer building so that predominant winds are less likely to blow through the building and carry litter off-site.
  • Installing perimeter landscaping and fencing to reduce wind speeds at the transfer station site and to trap any litter.
  • Ensuring that tarps on open top trucks are secure.
  • Providing skirting around loading chutes.
  • Removing litter frequently to reduce the opportunity for it to travel offsite.
  • Patrolling nearby access roads to control litter from truck traffic.
Air Emissions:

Air emissions at transfer stations can come from unloading dry, dusty waste delivered to the transfer station, exhaust from trucks, loaders and other equipment, and driving over unpaved surfaces. The following can reduce air emissions:

  • Requiring trucks delivering and picking up waste at the facility to reduce unnecessary engine idling.
  • Working with fleet operators to reduce engine emissions (e.g., engine improvements or use of cleaner fuels).
  • Spraying dusty wastes with water as they are unloaded.
  • Ensuring that street sweeping operations use enough water to avoid kicking up dust.
  • Paving all surfaces where trucks operate.

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