Soil strength and failure surface geometry directly influence magnitudes of passive earth thrust acting on geotechnical retaining structures. Accordingly, it is expected that as long as the shape of the failure surface geometry and strength parameters of the backfill are known, magnitudes of computed passive earth thrusts should be highly accurate. Building on this premise, this study adopts conventional method of slices for calculating passive earth thrust and combines it with equations for estimating failure surface geometries based on in-situ stress state and density. Accuracy of the proposed method is checked using the results obtained from small-scale physical retaining wall model tests. In these model tests, backfill was prepared using either air pluviation or compaction and different backfill relative densities were used in each test. When the calculated passive earth thrust magnitudes were compared with the measured values, it was noticed that the results were highly compatible for the tests with pluviated backfills. On the other hand, calculated thrust magnitudes significantly underestimated the measured thrust magnitudes for those tests with compacted backfills. Based on this observation, a new approach for the calculation of passive earth pressures is developed. The proposed approach calculates the magnitude and considers the influence of locked-in stresses that are the by-products of the backfill preparation method in the computation of lateral earth forces. Finally, recommendations are given for any geotechnical application involving the compaction of granular bodies that are equally applicable to physical modelling studies and field construction problems.