Trash talk: how I learned to love teamwork with a landfill design project

by Vedashree Chandewar, MSc Environmental Engineering 2022-2023.

If you are like me and have never worked on group projects, what I am about to share will hopefully make you less worried about them. At Imperial, this is something you will do quite often. As a part of my MSc Environmental Engineering course, I recently worked on a collaborative team project focusing on the design of a landfill in the UK. 

I completed my undergraduate degree from The Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, and prior to this, I had only worked on individual projects. While working as an individual does offer plenty of benefits and flexibility in working, the scope of the research becomes limited for a lone researcher. However, when I joined Imperial for my postgraduate degree, I got the opportunity to work on my first group project for a module called Containment Engineering. 

Project overview 

Our team consisted of six members, with each of us bringing unique skills and perspectives to the project. Our goal was to design a landfill that met the environmental regulations, minimised impact on local communities, and maximised sustainability as well as the operator’s profit. 

Site selection 

To begin, we probed into the regulations and guidelines related to landfill design in the UK. Based on the UK Landfill Directive and DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) guidelines, we sorted the criteria for site selection. We considered factors such as proximity to residential areas, sensitive receptors, biodiversity-protected zones, topography, and hydrogeology of the region. We chose the site which offered the maximum available area with minimal impact on the neighbourhood. As someone with little experience in this, I was initially worried. But my resourceful teammates had suggestions to use digital tools such as ‘DigiMaps’ and ‘Magic Maps’ which entail geographical information systems. That was when I recognised the advantages of working in a team. I realised that I saved a lot of my time which I would have otherwise spent researching the method and learning to use software and tools.  

Designing a landfill 

We made a preliminary design for the landfill. This included all the materials quality specifications, material quantities, and installation procedures to be recommended to the landfill operators. We also integrated features such as a methane capture system to collect and safely manage greenhouse gas emissions.  

Designing an environmentally sound system often demands additional provisions which may imbalance the client’s budget. Therefore, it was our challenge to come up with a choice of materials that were cost-effective while offering high efficiency.  

Power of teamwork 

Throughout the project, we worked collaboratively, meeting regularly to discuss progress, and made decisions together. There were conflicting opinions at times, but we were able to resolve them reasonably. Something I really appreciate about being at Imperial is the enthusiasm of every student towards their field. I had an amazing group dynamic with my teammates, everyone was responsive in the group, took initiative and followed up on their actions too! The same rapport was reflected in our presentation as well. The way we helped each other answer the questions from the examiner evidenced our camaraderie.  

Overall, this challenging yet rewarding experience helped me to overcome my anxiety towards working in a group. I still hang out with my lovely teammates and now I have friends for life! 


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