SOUTH SALT LAKE — At first glance, the small orange shredder appears too small for the job it's expected to do.

But fire up the Doppstedt DW-3060 shredder and railroad ties are reduced to twigs. Sofas become small bits of fabric, foam rubber and wood splinters. A child's swimming pool is chopped to a pile of blue plastic bits.

In its first weeks of testing at Salt Lake County's transfer station, the relatively small Doppstadt shredder has made a big impression on the county's waste managers.

"The machine itself is not big at all. In fact, it has less horsepower than a regular semi truck. But because it works with the principle of a direct drive (rather) than a transmission drive or clutch drive, all available horsepower is there," said Yianni Ioannou, Salt Lake Valley Solid Waste Management's executive director.

Small but mighty, indeed, he said.

"See that little pile out there," said Ioannou, pointing to small load of refuse. "That's eight truck loads."

The goal of the shredding program is to significantly reduce the volume of waste that enters the Salt Lake Valley Landfill, thereby extending its life. This particular shredder, which Ioannou describes as medium size, cost about $600,000. The county plans to utilize three of them, two of which would be used at the landfill.

"If we are a little more efficient in all areas and double the life of the landfill, then we will make history," Ioannou said.

If the 500-acre landfill continues on its current path, it would need to be closed by 2053 — and that's with a small-scale shredding program now under way at the facility. The hope is a large-scale shredding effort will push back the closing date until 2066. "The density (of the landfill contents) will make us or break us," Ioannou explained.

Before that can happen, county officials are attempting to work out the bugs of the shredder and the series of conveyor belts that carry shredded refuse and scrap metals to their respective piles. They're also learning about the shredder's capacity, safety procedures and the particular properties of the end product that is taken to the landfill, where it is further compacted as it is buried in the landfill. The troubleshooting phase could take until the end of the year.

"It's very slow but it's very powerful," Ioannou explained as wooden pallets, shingles and discarded household furnishings go through the cutting chamber. "Watch, it comes out like a toothpick."

The end product is not quite that small but the shredder's ability to condense the waste from eight 30-yard trucks into a single truckload is impressive. "These eight truckloads were wasted down to nothing," Ioannou said.

Placing denser material in the landfill not only saves space, it reduces fire risk and the likelihood of leaks.

The technology is relatively simple, much like paper shredders commonly used in offices and homes, Ioannou said.

"You can imagine the kind of torque that it's producing."