When you’re throwing out your facility’s trash, it’s easy to throw money away with it. Waste management is prone to inefficiencies throughout the entire process. Taking the time to set up a smarter waste management program can yield considerable time and money savings quickly.
“It comes down to stepping back and setting up the process right,” says Bob Valair, Director of Energy and Environmental Services for Staples. “Take the time to use the proper procedures and train your associates right from day one.”
Conduct a Waste Audit
Cutting corners is a recipe for disaster when it comes to waste management. You’ll save money and prevent headaches in the long run with the right equipment.
“Have totes and other containers labeled properly so you’re not cross-contaminating. Maintain good record-keeping and have weekly inspections,” Valair says. “Use tilted carts or trash containers on wheels instead of ones that can’t be lifted or moved. That way, people aren’t bending over to pull things out.”
Examine the origins of your different waste streams as well, says Geoff Aardsma, Vice President of Client Services at Enevo, a technology-enabled waste and recycling services provider for facilities. “Where is it coming from? Why does it become waste in the first place? Are there methods to prevent it from becoming waste? If you don’t understand what your waste stream is, it’s difficult to put together a strategy on how to efficiently and safely handle it.”
Put the Right Tools in Place
For greater visibility, consider implementing smart waste technology like sensors that can identify how full your dumpsters are. Over time, you can use this information to predict when the dumpster will be full and coordinate with the hauler accordingly.
“Because we’re collecting data on an ongoing basis, we’re able to see if something isn’t going as expected. If we have an overflowing container, we can see that for some reason the Monday pickups haven’t been occurring and we can address that with the hauler,” says Aardsma. “The other benefit is proactive communication. We have a history of how the container became full so we can route cars for hauling when they’re needed.”
An investment in more ergonomic disposal equipment can also save time, money and hassle by cutting down on work-related injuries, adds Derrick Masimer, Vice President of Sales Operations for Toter, a manufacturer of ergonomic waste carts, containers and lifting equipment.
“Access to proper equipment is key to successful risk mitigation,” Masimer says. “Proper equipment should include features like an automated lifter to reduce manual lifting and tow bar options to reduce weight during transport.”
Where to Focus Training
In addition to updating your equipment, it’s crucial that you train employees on how to use it properly, Masimer adds: “Ironically, many facility managers focus more on what they see as the most life-threatening issues rather than on the most common causes of injury, like overexertion, slip and fall, and back strains. However, given the prevalence of injury, it’s important for facility managers to educate staff on waste stream management best practices, arm them with the right equipment and teach them how to use it. Vendors can offer insight into tailoring a system for your specific needs.”
Staples retrains associates periodically on best practices to keep the information fresh, Valair adds. Refresher courses customized to your building’s policies and procedures keeps everyone on the same page.
“One thing we always talk about is how to prevent back injuries. We have weekly calls with distribution to go over injuries that can happen in a facility,” explains Valair. “Each week and each shift, we get trained on exercise, how to properly bend and lift a product and how to dispose of it if it’s leaking.”
After you’ve revamped your waste management program, continue to measure its success so that you can accommodate changes in your waste volume or replace aging equipment as necessary. A simple occasional review will help you spot issues that are cropping up before they get out of hand, Aardsma says.
“Things often change without our knowledge, so it’s important to have systems in place that can alert you to changing conditions within your building so you can adjust your plan accordingly,” adds Aardsma. “That way you’re staying on top of the best management practices and won't be surprised by anything.”
Janelle Penny firstname.lastname@example.org is Senior Editor of BUILDINGS.