Engineering and the Environment

Richard Beaven


Primary position:
Principal Research Fellow


The University of Southampton

Richard Beaven is a Principal Research Fellow within the University's Waste Management Research Group, and specialises in landfill related research.

Having studied geology at Oxford University he obtained an MSc in hydrogeology from University College London in 1984 before working for 12 years as a hydrogeologist with Cleanaway Ltd (now Veolia), a large UK based Waste Management Company.

In 1989 he proposed and gained financial backing from Cleanaway Ltd and the Department of the Environment to run two major research programmes to investigate fundamental properties of waste materials.  He designed the internationally unique Pitsea waste compression cell (see separate Tab).  His research has generated data on the hydrogeological and polluting properties of refuse which has made a significant contribution to the ongoing debate on sustainable landfill design.

In 1996 he furthered his research career by joining the University of Southampton part time, and also started his own independent Consultancy. He is based in Essex from where he co-ordinates research at the University's off-campus large-scale waste research facility at Pitsea, Essex.

He completed his PhD on the hydrogeology of wastes in the year 2000, studying controls over the flow of water in landfills.

Over the last 15 years he has maintained strong links with Industry and has worked on a variety of major research projects funded by EPSRC, Government Agencies (including the Environment Agency and defra) and Industry.

Dr Richard Beaven's photo


The University of Southampton's electronic library (e-prints)

Key Publications

Powrie, W. and Beaven, R. P. (1999) Hydraulic properties of household waste and implications for landfills. Proceedings of the ICE - Geotechnical Engineering, 137 , (4), 235-247. (doi:10.1680/geng.1997.137.4.235).
Jolly, J.M., Beaven, R.P. and Barker, R.D. (2011) Resolution of electrical imaging of fluid movement in landfills. Proceedings of the ICE - Waste and Resource Management, 164, (2), 79-96. (doi:10.1680/warm.2011.164.2.79).
Beaven, R.P., Hudson, A.P., Knox, K., Powrie, W. and Robinson, J.P. (2013) Clogging of landfill tyre and aggregate drainage layers by methanogenic leachate and implications for practice. Waste Management, 33, (2), 431-444. (doi:10.1016/j.wasman.2012.10.021).


Research Interests

Richard is interested in making landfills more environmentally acceptable.

His particular areas of research, for which he has an international reputation, include:

1. Hydrogeology of landfills, and impact of engineering controls of wastes on hydrogeological properties.

2. Clogging of engineered leachate collection systems

3. Design and operation of leachate pumping wells

4. Contaminant transport processes in waste, and impact on sustainable landfill design

5. Leachate/ liner interactions and impact on design and long term risk assessments for landfills

6. Landfill processes modelling

Primary research group:  Infrastructure Group

Affiliate research group:  Waste Management

Research projects

Understanding landfill processes

Waste mechanics and causes of landfill settlement, degradation and gas generation

How do we reduce the length of landfill aftercare?

Landfill hydraulics

Leachate recirculation and collection systems

Leachate recirculation, leachate drainage layers and clogging

Processes, mechanics and management of wastes

Pitsea compression Cell

Hydraulic and tracer tests in waste

Pitsea compression Cell

Drainage layer clogging experiment

Drainage layer clogging experiment

Tracer tests in waste

Tracer tests in waste

Pitsea Facility

The Pitsea Waste Research Facility

Located on the Veolia Environmental Services landfill site at Pitsea, Essex, this University of Southampton facility includes the unique Pitsea Compression Cell. Constructed in 1989, its large scale facilitates the representative testing of full-size waste samples at landfill overburden pressures of up to 600 kPa (typical of a 60 metre deep landfill)

Waste ejection after testing

showing compressed structure of waste and anisotropy

Waste ejection after testing

Using this testing cell the compressional behaviour and the resultant changes in porosity and permeability of different types of waste have been profiled throughout the depth of a landfill site. This enables modelling and design of suitable collection drainage systems necessary to protect the surrounding environment.

Tyre testing in compression cell

Tyre testing in compression cell



The compression cell has also been used to test the drainage properties of life-expired vehicle tyres (whole and shredded) recycled for use as landfill drainage media –the only facility in the world capable of testing whole tyres at overburden stresses typical at the base of deep landfills.




The compression cell offers a unique ability to undertake tracer tests to determine the contaminant transport properties of compressed waste under highly controlled conditions

Tracer test on waste

using fluorescent dyes

Tracer test on waste

The Pitsea waste research facility

The Pitsea waste research facility

Waste compression cell

constructed in 1989, and open to the elements

Waste compression cell

The facility today

The facility today

Dr Andrew Hudson

Research Fellow

Thumbnail photo of Dr Andrew Hudson

“Andrew Hudson now manages the Pitsea Research Facility”



Dr Richard Beaven
Engineering and the Environment
University of Southampton
SO17 1BJ

Room Number: /

Telephone: 01621 869133