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The University of Southampton

Dr Richard Beaven BA, MSc, PhD, FGS

Principal Research Fellow

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

He studied geology at Oxford University and obtained an MSc in hydrogeology from University College London before working for 12 years as a hydrogeologist with Cleanaway Ltd (now Veolia), a large UK based Waste Management Company.  Whilst still working in industry he started research into the fundamental properties of landfilled waste materials which led him to design the internationally unique Pitsea large-scale waste compression cell (see separate Tab) research the hydrogeological and polluting properties of refuse.

Since joining the University of Southampton in 1996 he has developed research interests into how to make landfills more sustainable and environmentally acceptable. 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 20 years he has maintained strong links with Industry and run a national forum on landfill aftercare (LANDSS) that attracts excellent stakeholder engagement. He has worked on a variety of major landfill related research projects funded by EPSRC, NERC, Government Agencies (including the Environment Agency and defra) and Industry.

Research interests

Richard’s particular areas of research include:

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

2. Contaminant transport processes in waste, including tracer tests

3. Whole-site landfill gas (methane) emissions from landfill

4. Landfill aftercare, especially measures to optimize and shorten its duration

5. Impact of sea-level rise on coastal landfills

6. Landfill processes modelling

Current major research projects include field scale investigations into methods to accelerate the remediation of three landfills in the Netherlands and understanding controls over whole-site landfill gas emissions.

The Dutch Accelerated Remediation Trial (DART)

Richard is working on an EPSRC funded project where Southampton is supporting the Dutch in their efforts to remediate three landfills over a timescale of 10 years.  They are providing science to underpin achievements made as this will be required by regulators before they will accept that the landfills no longer pose any threat to the environment.  They are undertaking tracer tests within the landfill environment and developing numerical models to help explain the mechanisms that control to the clean-up of the site by flushing.

Tracer gas dispersion method for measuring whole site methane emissions from landfill

The tracer gas dispersion method (TDM), utilises gas tracers released at the emission source and a high-precision gas analyser to simultaneously measure airborne concentrations of the tracer gas and landfill gas. Measurements are taken off-site and downwind of the landfill and are rapid and accurate enough to allow daily variations in emissions, perhaps due to operational, meteorological and seasonal changes, to be measured.  Research funded by DEFRA has previously investigated causes of variability in methane emissions from landfills.  Current research is aimed at improving the understanding of emission rates from old closed landfills to improve national inventory reporting and to investigate options for further GHG mitigation measures on landfills.

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
The Dutch Accelerated Remediation Trial (DART)
The Dutch Accelerated Remediation Trial (DART)
Tracer gas dispersion method for measuring whole site methane emissions from landfill
Tracer gas dispersion method for measuring whole site methane emission

Research group

Infrastructure Group

Affiliate research group

Waste Management

Research project(s)

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

Coastal Landfill and Shoreline Management: Implications for Coastal Adaptation Infrastructure

An options appraisal for remediation of coastal landfills in the Maldives

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Key Publications



Book Chapters

  • Beaven, R. P., Powrie, W., & Zardava, K. (2011). Hydraulic properties of MSW. In D. Zekkos (Ed.), Geotechnical characterization, Field Measurements and Laboratory Testing of Municipal Solid Waste (pp. 1-43). (ASCE Geotechnical Special Publication; No. 209). American Society of Civil Engineers.
  • Woodman, N., Beaven, R. P., & Barker, J. A. (2007). Critique of landfill flushing using exponential models. In A. Haarstrick, & T. Reichel (Eds.), Landfill Modelling (IWWG Monograph Series). CISA.
  • Beaven, R. P., Woodman, N., & Barker, J. A. (2005). End-member flushing models for 'saturated' waste. In A. Haarstick, & T. Reichel (Eds.), Landfill Modelling CISA.




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). The facility reached the end of its working life and was decommissioned during 2020. University of Southampton landfill research is currently concentrating on field-scale investigations. 

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 offered a unique ability to undertake tracer tests to determine the contaminant transport properties of compressed waste under highly controlled conditions. This work has been key to understanding landfill remediation processes and contributes to the debate about the length of landfill aftercare and landfill sustainability.

using fluorescent dyes
Tracer test on waste
The Pitsea waste research facility
The Pitsea waste research facility
constructed in 1989, and open to the elements
Waste compression cell
The facility in its heyday
The facility in its heyday

Related Staff Member

Dr Richard Beaven
Engineering, University of Southampton, Southampton Boldrewood Innovation Campus, Burgess Road, Southampton, SO16 7QF

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