Municipal Waste Transfer Station Design

The trend today in solid waste management is for waste disposal sites such as landfills and incinerators to be located in remote areas far from population centers. Municipal Waste Transfer Stations bridge the gap between where municipal waste is collected and the distant disposal sites, and are a key component in a community’s overall waste management solution.  When located and designed properly, transfer stations can reduce costs, save fuel, and offer enhanced waste screening and recycling opportunities.  Designing a municipal waste transfer station requires vision, project planning experience and the ability to navigate the specific requirements of governmental bodies.


What is a municipal transfer station?
According to the USEPA, “all transfer stations share the same basic purpose – consolidating waste from multiple collection vehicles into larger, high-volume transfer vehicles for more economical shipment to distant disposal sites.”  Transfer stations may contain the following components:

  • A building with a “tipping floor”, where collection trucks dump their loads
  • Waste processing areas, where waste is screened for non-permitted items and recyclables, compacted, and loaded into larger vehicles for long-haul shipment to a final disposal facility (landfill or incinerator)
  • A Material Recovery Facility, with a tipping floor, recyclable processing area, short-term storage, and loading area for offsite shipment

Sophisticated environmental engineering firms such as HSA Golden are often called upon to assume pivotal roles in the complicated design process for Municipal Waste Transfer stations.


Economic Considerations
Building and operating a Municipal Waste Transfer Station has a fixed cost that must be compared to the savings that can be achieved in transportation to a disposal site to find the break-even point (in haul miles). If the distance between a proposed transfer station and the disposal site must be greater than the break-even point in order for the transfer station to be economically justified.


Environmental and Social Benefits
Transfer stations provide a more optimal location to screen waste, helping to prevent the disposal of hazardous and other unauthorized wastes.  Waste can also be screened to recover recyclable materials to help meet a community’s recycling goals.  Many municipal transfer stations also have a material recycling facility (MRF) as part of their operation. These MRFs can provide a convenient drop-off to the public for hazardous or special waste.


Design Considerations 
The EPA advises that project managers must make decisions regarding two key issues:

  1. The transfer station’s capacity and the specifics about the site 
    Decisions must be made regarding the factors affecting a transfer station’s size and capacity and must take into consideration facility siting as well as various processes and community involvement; and
  2. The types of waste that the transfer station can accept
    For example, a municipal transfer station might offer programs that enable it to manage specific materials separately in order to divert waste from disposal and to achieve the optimal recycling results.


Other important factors include (to name just a few):

  • Is the facility for public or private use?
  • Conditions that must be met for operation in a rural area
  • The need for community investment in private facilities; after all, the function of the transfer station has an impact on everyone living in the area.
  • Awareness of zoning requirements


As experts in solid waste management, HSA Golden has the knowledge, experience and resources to help you design your next state-of-the-art waste transfer facility. Click here to request a project evaluation.