Repository logo

Characterization of stress-deformation behaviour of municipal solid waste



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title




Degree Level



Several catastrophic failures have occurred during the past two decades, both in engineered as well as non-engineered landfills. In addition, there are numerous instances of significant deformations, although not failure in the sense of significant and rapid downslope mass movement, which may cause sufficient damage to buried gas and leachate collection infrastructure. One such instance was observed in 1999 near the toe of a 75 m high 4H:1V slope at the Brock West Landfill in Ontario, Canada. Significant distortion of gas collection laterals was observed at this site. The present research is an in-depth study intended to examine deformation in landfills based on a detailed study of the mechanical properties of municipal solid waste. Four research objectives were defined based on identified shortcomings and knowledge gaps in the existing literature pertaining to mechanical properties of MSW viz; (a) to develop a method for obtaining intact samples of MSW and to examine the significance of using intact and recompacted samples in characterizing the stress-deformation behaviour of MSW; (b) to characterize MSW shear strength and Young’s modulus of elasticity from interpretation of triaxial test results and to determine the parameters of a non-linear elastic constitutive model as applied to MSW; (c) to measure the evolution of compressibility behaviour of MSW with degradation and verify the mechanism of secondary compression in waste; (d) to develop a simple design chart for predicting lateral deformations in landfills. A comprehensive research program was carried out to address various research objectives - field monitoring of deformations at the Brock West site; triaxial compression tests on large intact and recompacted samples of waste; simulating waste degradation in a large laboratory compression cell; analyzing stress-strain data from various published studies and a numerical modelling study. Interpretation of the effective stress paths followed during shearing in triaxial compression tests suggested that while recompacted samples may be sufficient to characterize shear strength parameters for use in stability analysis of landfill slopes, there might be a benefit in obtaining intact samples to evaluate the deformation characteristics of MSW. A hyperbolic model is proposed to describe the stress-deformation response of waste. The required parameters for this model were determined from evaluation of the results of numerous triaxial tests, both from this study and from the published literature. Observations from the long-term degradation test suggested that degradation has a significant effect on the compressibility of waste and further verifies the mechanism of secondary compression in waste. The coefficient of at-rest lateral pressure was observed to maintain an essentially constant value during combined compression and degradation.The results obtained from the experimental work were combined with the findings of a stochastic numerical modelling study and a statistical evaluation of published data and used to propose a simple design chart for estimating the maximum lateral displacement in a landfill slope. The design chart was developed using results of a finite element parametric study in which the behaviour of the municipal solid waste was modeled using a non-linear elastic hyperbolic model. The design chart incorporates nonlinear variation in unit weight as well as Young’s modulus with depth. The predictions from the design chart were compared with the results of field monitoring of lateral displacement in the instrumented slope at the Brock West landfill and were found to be in good agreement.



Landfill, Stability, Characterization, Non-linear behaviour, Design Chart, Deformation, MSW



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Civil Engineering


Civil Engineering


Part Of